A video by Exploring Alternatives on youtube about us.
Its not the beginning of a cryogenic sleeping chamber. It will be a fully automated and climate controlled plant propagator. Variables include including thermostatically controlled bottom heat, air temperature and humidity sensors, air venting, soil moisture and leaf wetness sensor, automated fogging and option for shade/sun percentage and day length. I’ve got all the mechanicals ready and Craig Williams is building the computer controller from scratch on a raspberry Pi board. Apparently it will be possible to monitor and control it all from my phone! Ya robot army!
Actually eating our own persimmons marks the end of an era here for me. Its been around eight years since i imported and planted the first trees. At the time i didn’t know anybody else in the area who was growing them or even if they would survive and produce. The books seemed to say they would but it was leap of faith. This year we ate 6 different kinds that all came online simultaneously: meader, nikita’s gift, fuyu, saijo, nishimura and chocolate.
Peter’s Intro to Solar Water Pumping
Written by Peter Janes at the request of the Solar Power Group. Photo by Peter Janes.
The main challenge with solar powered systems is that they are relatively expensive to set-up.
Like a lot of other things that are worth doing the initial investment can be a challenge.
We’re running solar direct water pumps on our farm. This means that the PV panel is connected
(almost) directly to the pump motor. When it’s really sunny the pumps move a lot of water.
When its cloudy they move less and at night they won’t run at all no matter what you need to
water. The solar direct water set-up works great for watering fruit trees on drip irrigation. Their
water demands are directly linked to sun intensity and evapotranspiration levels. It also works
great for pumping to a secondary storage. Ideally this is a reservoir placed high in the landscape
that can provide pressurized water at any hour via gravity with no additional pumping. The solar
direct system does not work well with annual vegetable irrigation. This is better done during
early morning and late at night as too much water is lost to evaporation during mid-day. In
addition vegetable irrigation tends to be a stop/start endeavor that requires the pump to switch on
and off even with a pressure tank.
Our system runs on 24V DC, twice the voltage of a typical automobile. The motors on the pumps
are also engineered for 24V DC. They are not commonly available. Systems can be set-up for
any other DC voltage, including 12 VDC but continuous-duty motors in DC aren’t commonly
available in this voltage either.
It is possible to mediate between the panel and motor with a few different options. One is a
battery. This allows you to pump at night but requires the addition of a relatively cheap charge
controller. The other potential mediator is called a Linear Current Booster (LCB). I’ve run
pumps with and without them and consider them totally essential for low-light conditions. They
are interesting little black boxes that can convert voltage into amperage and get the pump turning
when it otherwise would be sitting stalled without enough powered to get turning.
There are numerous pumps on the market these days with a wide range of (generally high)
prices. I’m mostly familiar with what are called horizontal piston pumps. They are a (near totally)
obsolete technology that was very widespread before the advent of the modern jet-pump.
However, when combined with Solar technology they have the interesting advantage of almost
no start-up resistance. Meaning they will start turning slowly with very little available power
(sun) when a jet pump would be totally stalled in the same conditions. i.e. how it is every
morning in the summer before the sun is high overhead. The other great thing about the piston
pump is that it is infinitely rebuild-able. My current Number Two pump is an amalgamation of
three different scrap piston pumps that I rescued from dump piles. My number one pump was a
brand new Solar Force piston pump, which the company put together using a pompco body and a
leeson motor (and the addition of a very healthy mark-up). Both have required very little
maintenance and will outlive me with correct care. If you are interested in putting together your
own system there is some artistry in matching PV power, LCB capability and motor ability and
pump gear ration to achieve correct performance.
Other pump of note are the cheap diaphragms pumps make by shurflow ($100-200), the solar
gear pumps called a “slow pump”, and some really interesting deepwell pumps that can run on
any input voltage: BC Hydro or solar. They are very expensive but totally adaptable to any
If your water supply is close to your power supply and you have BC hydro it’s probably not
worth getting into solar pumping. However, if your water supply is more than a few hundred feet
from your power supply (BC hydro or otherwise) then solar pumping starts to look good based
on ditching and wire cost alone. Additionally, once the system is set-up nobody sends you a
utility bill for having it turned on!
Remineralization, Effective microorganisms, and Tall Pots.
All of the plants being sold from the farm are now up to speed with highly mineralized and fertilized soil mix that has been inoculated with aerobic effective microorganisms (EM). Its kind of expensive but fairly easy to do. The results seem to be somewhat difficult to measure. But, when it comes to trees, time will tell! So far this year the chestnut seedlings seem to be off to a roaring start with a growth rate and leaf size that i haven’t seen before.
The other new practice in the nursery this year is the use of “stuewe and sons” tree pots for all the tap-rooted species. These pots are 10-12″ tall compared to the usual 6-8″ tall pots. My observations thus far is that the extra root space translates to happier and taller trees when those trees are tap-rooted: mostly nut trees but also other species grown from seed such as c. trifoliata and paw paw.
2015 will be our first season offering Fresh Tree Seed!
Mark Shepard’s recommended planting density from Restoration Agriculture, 2013
Peter Janes. Jan 2015
1 Acre (at New Forest Farms) contains:
-86 chestnut [!!!]
-208 hazelnut [!!!]
These trees are distributed in 9 rows of trees with a 23′ wide aley (or row crop or forage) between each row of trees
-5 (0f 9) rows are of chestnut, planted 12′ apart in each row, with currants planting beneath on 2′ centers and a grape planted against each chestnut stem
4 (of 9) rows are Apple and Hazelnut. Apples are planted 24′ apart and hazels are planted as an understory every 4′. Raspberries planted to the south on 2′ centers and a grape on each apple.
Peter’s notes for the night:
This is amazing plant density that nobody around here that i know (myself included) has had the bravery to pull off. I love it. We’re going to redensify most of my original plantings based on mark’s inspirations.
I’m validated by his emphasis on seedling diversity and glad i’ve been doing the same thing on our farm. Not very many people want to chance it with seedlings, but i think the risk is highly overstated. IF only 1 in 10,000 apple seedlings are going to produce any decent fruit, then how come, please tell, did the first apple seedling i planted that came to fruition last year happen to produce a really nice apple? It looked like a rose blush transparent (and just as early) but with better flavor and crunch!
Other thoughts…don’t bother with that many red currants because the red currant maggots are in the area and they ruin 99% of the fruit -at least for now. Plant blacks, josta’s or goosies instead…..
Care and Cultivation of Newly Purchased Plants
The main factors that kill young trees are 1) summer drought 2) grass competition 3) mechanical damage 4) winter water-logging.
So, make sure you water your new trees for their first few summer seasons (whether in pot or in the ground). Keep any weed competition, especially grass, away from the surrounding soil. Protect the trees from meadow voles, deers, weed-wackers and dogs. Don’t plant any trees in areas that hold standing water after heavy rains (with the exception of m. fusca or blueberries.) Some plants, like sweet chestnuts and kiwi vines, are totally intolerant of wet soils.
The main factors that help plants to thrive are 1) adequate applied research on the part of the human purchaser 2) maintaining an optimum growth curve by providing for anticipated needs (the opposite of stunting) 3) watering lots in the summer: 4-6 Gallons a day, everyday! 4) weed control via clear cultivation or heavy mulching (the latter only if you don’t have voles) 5) appropriate pruning 6) Light weight and well-aerated soil. (especially for pawpaws) 7) Lots of appropriate fertilizer: whether dug into the hole, applied as a mulch, foliar sprayed or applied by ranging poultry. Get a soil test done and apply the knowledge. I can’t recommend soil tests enough (loganlabs.com). 8) Appropriate micro-climate selections: Some trees need milder winter lows, some need more summer heat. Some, like figs, like both conditions. Some tree like full sun and some, like the ribes, like part shade. 9) Adequate pollination: This may mean buying multiples of a tree, buying a different cultivar than the first tree or planting one or more males. 10) Pay attention to eventual long-term size and shape and make sure there is adequate room for the tree.
We sell quality plants that we feel confident in. It is the responsibility of the buyer to do their own research and learn how to best care for their new plants. There is no explicit or implicit warranty on plants and we welcome you into the wild and unpredictable world of perennial food-plant cultivation.
I highly recommend both permanent labeling and mapping of your food trees.
Peter Janes and the TreeEater team
Do you live with Hazelnut Trees?
Where do our Minerals Come From?
Peter B. Janes
April 18 2014
I’ve long read that food from the grocery store is increasingly mineral deficient and that
nutrition levels have been declining steadily since the 1950s. It makes sense as most farm
land is being continually cropped and the majority of the fertility added back is coming in the
form of N-P-K petroleum fertilizer. Of course plants need a lot of than nitrogen, phosphorous
and potassium to grow properly and so does the human body.
We’ve been reading a book called the Intelligent Gardener by Steve Solomon. He’s a (I would
say) reformed hippy gardener from the 70s back-to the land movement. His thing these days
is remineralization and he frowns on his traditional (and most of our local and current) garden
amending technique of just adding a lot of manure and compost. According to him this route
simply exacerbates regional excesses and does nothing to rectify regional deficiencies.
My main fertilizing technique has mostly been manure, seaweed, hay and whatever else is
cheap and local. I’ve never done a soil test because i thought they were expensive. And why
bother? However, last year i was talking with a couple who came to visit the nursery and they
told me about Steve Solomon and about a place called Logan Labs. “$25 per test” they said,
and “our production more than doubled after the prescribed amending.”
So, we did some tests this winter and low and behold, just like Steve said, massive calcium
deficiency, ultra low ph, potassium excess, but really good cation exchange and organic
matter levels (from all the manure and sheet mulching for a decade). Apparently certain
regions have fairly predictable test patterns.
We needed to add nitrogen, phosphorous and trace minerals. We needed agricultural lime
more than all the other amendments combined. Its important here to stress that agriculture
lime is not dolomite lime, no matter what the worker at the farm and feed store tries to tell you.
Dolomite lime has a lot of magnesium and coastal soils tend to have too much magnesium
compared to calcium. Is the lack of calcium in our farm soils the reason why some of us have
soft teeth? Steve Solomon says that at the height of his back-to-the-land career all of his teeth
were falling out! Our soil is also short on zinc and copper. These elements play extremely
complicated roles in the human body. Calcium and magnesium have a sensitive dance. As do
calcium and vitamin D (which also in short supply around here).
Will the new plan produce healthier food and healthier people? Time will tell. I have read that
most of the bottled vitamin and mineral supplements that so many people take are extremely
(chemically) unavailable to the human body compared to vitamins and minerals that have
been processed by plants and animals that we can consume.
We brought home about 2000 pounds of amendments (about 10 different products valued
at about $800) for just over a quarter acre of cultivated vegetable garden. That may sound
like a lot but the bags are really heavy and they only occupied less than half of my truck bed.
I realized while we were spreading it all that it could be the smartest thing we’ve ever done
for our own health and security. Some people stockpile canned foods and batteries and
guns. But what’s more disaster prepared than having soil that fully supports life? Of course
i recognize the ecological cost of the mineral mining and long distance trucking required to
mineralize our land. But whats the alternative? Going along with Stephen Harper’s plan to get
us all working in the oil industry and buying all of our food from China? Maybe the region’s
soil deficiencies are why the First Nations long ago oriented their subsistence towards the
This Months Recipe: Fried Denman Seaweed
Don’t worry too much about the radiation. Being mineral deficient will kill you sooner than
the strontium 90 will. Furthermore, Strontium 90 actually mimics calcium so if you’re low in
calcium your body will uptake extra Sr 90 to try fill the calcium void. Many other dangerous
nuclear isotopes act as mineral-mimics in this way.
-Go down to a rocky beach (on the Hornby side) at low tide and collect the thin gossamer
dark red seaweed that’s growing in clumps on the boulders. We call it Purple Laver. Green
Laver and “Sea Lettuce” are pretty good too. Don’t worry about 100% identification because
no seaweed is poisonous. If the tides been out for awhile the seaweed will be dried in sheets
onto the rocks almost like sushi nori.
-Don’t take too much from any one spot and make sure to harvest the fronds with a pair of
scissors. Leave the plant’s hold-fasts intact on the rock and it will regrow.
-Take the seaweed home, rinse it, remove any shelled-beasts and dry it completely.
-Store it away in an airtight jar and/or break up about 2 fist-fulls into small pieces.
-Put several tablespoons of olive oil (or coconut oil) and a few pinches of salt in a big cast
-Get the oil really hot (but not burning) and throw in seaweed. Toss and stir it quickly for just a
few minutes until it crisps up.
-Serve hot. Even little boys seem to like it.
Check out these stunning photos of our farm taken by Belinda White
Photos taken by Emily and Leah and Peter from a July workparty
We’ve got an opening for an agricultural apprentice. Starting March 1st and open-ended, pending a 2 week trial period. Tasks ranging from nursery work (plant propagation and stock management) to garden expansion and production (getting the CSA started for the season) to general animal and farm tasks. 25 hours/week. We have a nice little trailer for the apprentice (with heat, power, and internet) and access to the amenities (meals and bathing) of the main farm house. There is a possibility of a stipend from FMC pending application and their acceptance.
Send us a CV and references if you’re interested! Peter and the Farm.
“There is an inescapable cruelty in our life. We have to live at the expense of other creatures. It doesn’t make any difference how vegetarian we are. We’re still displacing other creatures. But, the rule in using other creatures -and i mean plants and animals- is to use them with the minimum of violence.”
Wendell Berry. 2013.
Peter B. Janes
Lets talk about the thing that nobody in the local food movement really wants to talk about. The elephant in the room, or the barn as it may be. They’re usually brown or white, but sometimes they have some fancy colors on them. They’re pretty square, but not very tough. Don’t get them wet! They’re heavy -usually, say about exactly 40 pounds. We are totally addicted to them. Have you guessed it yet?
Feed. Animal feed. The grain that we buy from the feed-stores to maintain, grow, finish and breed almost all our of domestic livestock and pets and …ourselves…
Am I serious? Whats the problem with feed and grain? To be brief: corporate control, genetic engineering, petroleum fertilizer, toxic pesticides and herbicides, giant machines replacing human jobs, the global commodities market, long distance shipping, total lack of local control, erosion of nutrient and mineral content, massive soil erosion and aquifer depletion…..
Here’s a more focused example to bring it all home: I was recently talking to a grain grower and miller who currently resides and works in Port Alberni. He used to grow commercial grain on the prairies. He was explaining to me that growers’ want all the wheat to finish at exactly the same time (its called hardening off) so that a single run of the combine will harvest the maximum amount of finished grain that is free of its husk. In the past this was a bit a of a crap-shoot to get the timing right. Now, its standard operating procedure to spray a “desiccant” on the crop a couple of weeks before harvest so all the plants finish their grain at exactly the same time. The desiccant is Round-up. So I said “So, you mean all the grain we’re eating was sprayed with Round-up right before it was harvested?” He said “Yes”.
Since then i’ve been trying to buy organic feed. But, to be honest, its just too expensive for us. Even before this point my position was to avoid extruded feed and feed that contains corn or soy. I purchase the whole grain “high protein” scratch. It has lentils for protein. But its still dirty stuff to which the above “dessicants” are still applied -just like all our human food grain
My best solution to all of this is to plant lots of lots of fruit and nut trees: the whole permaculture idea. I’ve planted hundreds and sold thousands. On the surface, a diet of fruit and nuts might seem like a commitment to a pseudo-paleo plant-based vegan diet. It could be and I think there are a lot of good arguments for taking this route -Fukashima and heart disease being only two.
However, this route also lays the foundation for a truly sustainable and incredibly nutritious local live-stock industry. One where the surplus mast goes to the animals. “Mast” describes large amounts of tree crops, surplus fruits and nuts that can be fed to grow and fatten livestock that are otherwise pasture based.
This is an old pattern. In the old days in France and Spain the chestnuts were once stored in the fall for winter feeding – much like we do now with hay. Cows, goats, sheep, pigs and chickens all ate them. Furthermore, human labour can be eschewed entirely in a well-developed agro-forestery system by letting the animals pick-up the mast themselves during the ripening period. The feral hogs on the savanna of Iberia still do to this day. In fact, this is pretty much what the wild deer of Denman are currently doing. They browse what they can for most of their diets (especially human cultivated lawns) and then fatten themselves on wind-fallen apples in the fall. There is no reason why we can’t recreate these systems on here for livestock in a more controlled fashion.
The problem with this whole plan is that its fairly long-term. Really long-term actually. And it takes a lot of work and money to do it right. In the mean-time who’s interested in growing organic grain for sale to local animals and human animal’s? There’s now a successful model to follow from the interior: A grain farmer is growing emmer for direct sale to a “grain CSA” in nelson. They’re even transporting the crop by fleet of sailboat from Creston to Nelson. The grain farmer is commanding a premium price, the consumers are eating premium wheat and there are no middle-men. Emmer is an old and highly nutritious variety of wheat. In this case its for people. Would it be economically feasible to grow (lower quality) feed grain to sell by the tonne to livestock farmers on the Island?
Grain’s grow well here: I’ve grown and harvested many small patches or rye, wheat, oats and barely over the years. And I know that at least two of our livestock farmers grow oats for their own beasts. I’m sure that the devil is probably in the details and that the details are probably economic. But I for one would be willing to pay a good price for local bulk feed in order to avoid the constant trips to town.
Carbohydrates need our collective attention. Whether growers or consumers, vegan, vegetarian or omnivorous. My sense is that any progress on this front will come about from people chatting with each other and figuring out ways to simultaneously meet each others needs. Some of us have land, some have money, some have machines, some of us grow, some of us eat…..
The December Recipe: Eggs and Toast by Raphael
(An everyday meal that betrays its/our total dependency on the 40lb sacks. Add some bacon if you want to take the grain dependency to the next level.
-Heat up small skillet to low and add 1 tablespoon of butter. Add a pinch of salt to the oil.
-Slice bread. Insert in and depress toaster
-Crack two eggs and cook slowly to maintain tenderness. Finish to desired firmness.
-Butter toast, plate eggs and fetch your best jar of mustard. Eat while its hot.
August 1 2013
I’m looking for additional old-school PISTON PUMPS that aren’t being loved and used that i can refurbish and put back to work. They, as a technology, became mostly obsolete about 50 years ago…But, they still have a lot going for them and are completely reborn when tied directly to photovoltaic solar panels. no batteries needed. They are extremely efficient in this application and infinitely rebuildable.
July 2013 is berry season: we’re harvesting lots and lots of goumi berries, red raspberries, ivory white hunza mulberries, purple illinois everbearing mulberries, marrion berries, tay berries and native trailing blackberries. The pie cherries are just about ready. The robins are eating lots of all the berries that aren’t netted so i’ve made the habit […]
July 2013 is berry season: we’re harvesting lots and lots of goumi berries, red raspberries, ivory white hunza mulberries, purple illinois everbearing mulberries, marrion berries, tay berries and native trailing blackberries. The pie cherries are just about ready. The robins are eating lots of all the berries that aren’t netted so i’ve made the habit of eating some of the robins!, (oops am i supposed to admit this in public?).
The marrion berries are so amazingly vigorous, productive, large-fruiting and amazingly florally-fragrant that i’m really going to re-focus propagation effort on them.
We’re starting to include fruit and berries in the weekly box program and over time the proportion of perennial products will increase.
As of now, July 2013 Magdalene has 2 or 3 spaces available in the weekly box program. call or email if you’re interested