Thursday, February 16, 2012

A Good Egg Is Hard To Buy

With our hens in low production over the winters, we regularly resort to buying in some eggs. The quality always disappoints me. Even local, pastured eggs at $6 and $7 a dozen literally pale in comparison to those of our hens! Maybe this is one of those things money can't buy--at least not in commercial quantity?

The picture shows our hen egg at left, and one each of the $6 and $7/dozen eggs at right.  (Plus other standard ingredients of my scrambles: cooking greens, acorn halves, cherry kernels, and skirret root.  Fennel seed is in there but too small to see.  Garlic to be added at the end.)

Thursday, February 09, 2012

Our house sold: Permaculture designed urban homestead

One-of-a-Kind Permaculture Designed Urban Homestead
 Country Feel In The City 
All offers considered
  • 2 bedroom / 1 bath cottage (easy potential for 3rd bedroom) on 8750 sq. ft lot
  • House sits 80 ft off the street providing privacy & 4,000 sq. ft garden in front yard
  • 975 sq. ft Living Space with potential to live comfortably without fossil fuels
  • 345 sq. ft new Sun Room– amazing room with   21 ft wall of windows floor to ceiling!
  • Shaded, rain-proof porch for year-round outdoor living 
  • Garage with washing machine, Carport, Wood Shed, and Utility shed with electricity
  • Passive Solar Heating System (no fossil fuel or electricity to operate)
  • New concrete perimeter foundation & earthquake ties 
  • Well insulated walls, ceiling, & floor joists
  • Double-pane vinyl windows allow lots of natural light
  • Natural gas furnace and range
  • New custom metal roof
  • Chicken coop with laying hens, beehive for bees
  • 600 sq. ft of under-house storage space, including root cellar area
  • 1,000 sq. ft of edible Ecoroof garden
  • 6,850 sq. ft low maintenance, organic, permaculture designed Food Forest providing a family with year-round fruit, berries, nuts, eggs, and honey. 
  • A wonderful loose-knit co-housing community that shares tools, potlucks, and neighborly help
  • Super quiet, low car traffic street
  • 3 blocks to bus line #75, 9 blocks to #72
  • Walk to New Seasons and Alberta Arts District
  • Property taxes for 2010: $1582
4510 NE Going Street, Portland OR 97218
     Contact Tulsey @ 503-288-5331 or
    see our Website


    • House pictures of our finished house project.
    • Garden pictures - general pictures of pretty plants
    • Chickens - Pictures of our feathered helpers
    • Harvests - A few photos of harvests, mostly roots
    • Full Yard Views - Roof-top photos showing the changes over the years, from 2006 til present

    Monday, February 06, 2012

    More books for sale

    I've listed a few more books for sale, mostly foraging & ethnobotany. New listings are noted with "NEW" in front of them.

    I also dropped prices on most of the unsold books.

    And last call for plants & seeds; we're probably moving in early March.

    Sunday, February 05, 2012

    Full yard pics, February 2012

    I just posted some winter pictures of the yard from the roof. Not very exciting since most plants are still dormant, but nice to compare to the lush growth of other seasons.

    Greens - Phases of Growth & Winter Snapshot

    Inflection Point

    With lengthening days and unusually abundant winter sunshine, the greens in our yard grow actively again! No longer do I sparingly pick leaves, carefully allocating the non-renewable resource over the weeks of winter gloom. We enter a period of daily growth in the yard evenly balanced with how much we can eat each day. Soon we'll enter the crazy exponential phase of growth where we can't possibly eat it all, and we'll start replacing some of the weedy greens with more deliberate summer staple crops. As we eliminate the greens further out in the yard, we'll turn our attention more and more to the two new dedicated beds of perennial greens I organized over the last couple of months. These beds, of about 100 square feet total, currently lie in the shade of the house, so are growing more slowly than the rest of the yard. In another month they should have enough sunlight to begin vigorous growth, and the shadier conditions will help them through the summer.

    Right now, since each leaf is small to tiny and I have to pick a thousand leaves to fill a bowl, harvesting takes me about 5 minutes per ounce.  That will change soon as leaves get larger, overall growth gets denser, and I spend less time wiping off dirt splashed onto leaves from the ground.

    Current Greens Harvests

    Roughly in descending order of bulk, we're currently harvesting:

    Salad Greens

    • Dandelion (Taraxacum officinale)
    • Wintercress (Barbarea verna)
    • Alexanders (Smyrnium olusatrum)
    • Woodland chervil (Anthriscus sylvestris)
    • Purple dead nettle (Lamium purpureum)
    • Nipplewort (Lapsana communis)
    • French sorrel (Rumex acetosa)
    • Scorzonera (Scorzonera hispanica)
    • Allium tops (garlic chives, elephant garlic, egyptian walking onion, bunching onion, other unknown species)
    • Fennel (Foeniculum vulgare)
    • Earth chestnut (Bunium bulbocastanum)
    • Popweed (Cardamine something or other)
    • Sheep sorrel (Rumex acetosella)
    • Spearmint (Mentha spicata)
    • Lemon balm (Melissa officinale)
    • Unknown mint
    • Salad burnet (Sanguisorba minor)
    • ground cover bellflower (Campanula poscharskyana)
    • Zebra mallow (Malva sylvestris mauritiana)
    • Calendula (Calendula officinalis)
    • Siberian miner's lettuce (Montia sibirica)
    • Hen and chicks (Sempervivum tectorum)
    Stinging Nettle

    Cooking Greens

    In addition to using most of the same greens as for salads, we're harvesting (again in descending order of bulk):
    • Stinging nettle (Urtica dioica)
    • Tree collard
    • Clove root leaves (Geum urbanum)
    • Radish leaves
    • Chard
    • Kale
    • Beet leaves

    Saturday, February 04, 2012

    Harvest log update, February 2012

    I've updated the harvest log website. I haven't posted about the harvest log since last April. Some unorganized thoughts follow:

    • Our average daily calorie harvest hasn't changed much, still right about 670 calories per day. We still have perhaps 10-20 pounds of honey and maybe 3 pounds of fennel seed which we harvested but haven't weighed and entered into the database yet, which will boost the calories.
    • We've been harvesting fewer ounces of food per day than before, but with similar total calories, meaning we're harvesting more calorie crop - mostly a result of increased honey and egg harvest.
    • None of the fruit trees we've planted yielded last year, except the medlar in heavy shade with a little over 2 pounds of fruit. We did get twice as many cherries from our front yard seedling cherry as we did the previous year. We were a bit surprised and disappointed that the persimmon tree which gave 8 1/2 pounds in 2010 didn't yield in 2011. Our region had poor fruit harvests in general due to weather causing poor pollination. Hopefully this year the fruit trees will really start to produce, after 5 years in the ground!
    • Great yield from our goumi, which gave 12 1/2 pounds.
    • Much better yield from the strawberry patch, which gave 17 pounds in 2011 compared to 6 in 2010. Probably because Tulsey thinned out the plants in winter of 2010/11. The patch is about 80 square feet.
    • Bad raspberry year (11 pounds compared to 31 in 2010), as most of the plants in our original planting died (probably from root rot or some other disease), plus we didn't water the living patches enough to get a good fall harvest.
    • Our english walnut and two or three of our four hazels set some nuts, but all were taken by squirrels and jays. Unfortunately, we didn't eat any squirrels from the yard this year to offset that loss. We did get one tiny chestnut!
    • Our harvest of greens dropped off a lot last year, partly because we were wrapped up in the house project, and partly because we didn't irrigate much in summer and the greens suffered a lot.
    • Fairly large garlic harvest last year, of 18 pounds. (Shallots were a near total failure.) I'd like to see that tripled next year.
    • Sunchoke harvest has dropped by 50% due to making fewer fires, greatly affecting the winter calorie harvest. I think I'm going to break down and just use our gas stove and a sleeping bag (to act as a "haybox") to start cooking the sunchokes.
    • We approximately doubled our fennel seed harvest, to 5 pounds. Very successful calorie crop.
    • More eggs this past year, as the hens we purchased in May 2010 laid heavily from December 2010 through November 2011 before slowing down. We've had a larger flock than would be at all sustainable for this yard, and have been gradually culling the flock for ongoing meat harvest.
    • Harvesting a lot more nettles this winter season than last year. Delicious!
    • Light skirret harvest this year. I think last year I harvested a bunch of plants that had been in the ground 2 or 3 years and got very big, then replanted those crowns. I didn't water the skirret much this past season, and many of them grew in part to full shade. I harvested almost all those plants this winter as 1 year old, relatively scrawny roots. Definitely better to get some sort of multi-year mixture going so you can always harvest older plants.
    • Light mashua & yacon harvests this year, again because of lack of water. Almost all the mashua plants died down in the summer; I didn't expect any roots from them at all, and was pleasantly surprised at how many we did get considering how sad they were.
    • Good oca harvest this year! Two patches did poorly (lack of water again); one patch to the north of one of our persimmon trees in polyculture with yellow asphodel & lily did very well.
    • Nice teaser autumn olive and grape harvests! Neither huge, but larger than the few dozen berries or grapes from last year.
    • Pretty good potato harvest, though still not as good as I'd have liked - lack of water stunted or killed many plants.
    • We ate lots of fuki stalk, and sold or gave away several divisions, barely managing to keep the growth of the patch in check. Great vigorous perennial vegetable.
    • So far our asparagus is a very poorly yielding crop in terms of calories per space it takes up--only 280 calories from maybe 10 plants using maybe 30 square feet? Our solomon's seal gave 2/3 the calories from a similar area but growing in heavy shade on the north wall of our house, under timber bamboo, with lungwort, lovage, and wood sorrel in there as well. And we didn't even harvest as much of the solomon's seal as we could have.

    Friday, February 03, 2012

    Close Encounter

    A couple of nights ago, I returned from the library at dusk.  On the way home from the bus stop, I detoured into the vacant lot 3 doors down from our house.  I decided to sit in the grass under one of the black locust trees and watch the sky and the stars and the moon for a bit.  After maybe 10-15 minutes, I heard a rustling in the blackberry patch to my left, and turned my head to see a big ol' raccoon creep out!  Maybe 8-10' away from me!  He or she walked forward a few steps, sniffed, stared in my direction, walked forward a few more steps, getting within 3-4' of me!  Peered some more in my direction.  Turned to my right and walked in an arc, now maybe 6' out. topped and turned to stare at me again, sniff sniff, until due south of me.  Maybe finally smelled me well enough to figure out my presence...moved at a brisk walk to the orange fence 20' away, and seemed to vanish in the blink of an eye!

    2 minutes later...whole thing over again!  Rustle rustle, emerging raccoon, maybe even a little bigger than the last.  Step step stop peer sniff step step--this time definitely within 3', maybe 2', even closer than the last!  Reared up on hind legs as high as he or she could get.  Then back onto all fours, then moving to my left and backing out a bit. I thought this raccoon maybe peed, but I'm not sure why I thought that--I didn't really hear pee or see anything clearly (and when I went and sniffed the spot later I didn't smell anything.)  Circled around to my right again, with the same step step stop sniff peer step step, pretty much in the same path as the first raccoon.  Same thing again of stopping due south in front of me, and finally moving quickly to the fence; this time I watched carefully and saw the movement as he or she glided under the fence at a low spot in the dirt.

    I waited another 5-10 minutes, but no further activity; I was wondering whether younger adolescent raccoons would all repeat the performance!

    Very very cool; I'm so glad I got to experience that!  I must have lucked out with positioning myself such that the bright street light was more or less behind me when they came out of the thicket, and the wind was coming from the south so not blowing my scent at them.  I was actually scared a little bit; big animals with nasty teeth and claws and all that, oh my!  Definitely worth another twilight stake-out sometime soon...

    Wednesday, February 01, 2012

    New Paul Wheaton video: Sustainable Food - People Per Acre

    I've added this to the "Video and articles about us" perma-link:

    Paul Wheaton Sustainable Food - People Per Acre video (12 minutes) with a lot of footage of me and Tulsey describing our property, our initial expectations for self sufficiency for 3-4 people, and our growing realization of the realities of how many calories we can harvest here. Shot in August 2011.