Bee Assassin bug feeding on small bee in a sunflower.
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Bee Assassin bug feeding on small bee in a sunflower.
Cottonwood roots growing up into compost pile. These small piles are made in the shade of the cottonwood to buffer the drying effect from summer heat. However, leave a finished pile on the ground for a couple of weeks and this happens.
Interesting find at work today. This fly was dead when I found it while pulling w**ds. It somehow got impaled through the eye onto this sticker.
Building a small ASP setup with a combination of used and new materials. This will be an interesting trial to see if I can make GOOD compost with this setup as well as trial ASP for pre-composting the food for my vermi CFT.
Edible flower harvest! Pretty in and of themselves and also on/in food!!
Having to dig a trench at F&T (almost a swale...) to route the water around one patch. It's a lot of work but on the positive side, the soil I'm digging out of is loaded with earthworms and their tunnels. That's a good sign that the field management is headed in the right direction.
So...I'm screening a bunch of vermicompost on the trommel when I look up and see a big spider sitting on top of the compost. Had to do a double take to realize that it is a plastic spider that somehow was positioned perfectly on top of the material! 🤣
Found these worms mysteriously balled up at the top of squash volunteers in the worm bin. The odd thing is that everything else looked good...no worms trying to escape, no signs of unfavorable conditions that I could detect. Just some worms chilling (eating?) at the top of the seedlings.
Worm class. Woot!
Classes Online Worm Composting Class (Zoom) Teacher: Heather Rinaldi, Texas Worm Ranch. Heather has over 13 years of professional worm composting experience and is a National Speaker on Vermicomposting, Composting, Regenerative Agriculture, Gardening, Soil Health, and Wellness. When: Friday May 12 a...
Compost screen construction. These are for the NM Community Composting pilot program that we at the NM Compost Coalition started. 7 sites for the pilot and fingers crossed that all goes well and we are able to grow the program.
A different way to extract and/or make teas. Mechanical stirring instead of aeration. This is the direction that I have moved to and I like the process.
We're co-hosting a vermicompost class in Albuquerque. Please join us for a fun couple of hours talking about composting with worms! Class size is limited to 20 participants in order to offer a more personal experience.
When you itching to start spring planting but don't have a nursery space. 😂 Folding tables, heat mats, and straw.
A labor of love. Hand turned thermophilic compost is quite a bit of physical work. STILL can't seem to stop, though. Haha. For the love of compost, soils, and all that rely on them...
I've been doing some work with extracts on intensively managed market gardens recently. Minimal available space for dragging around a cart and tank. Also, my diaphragm pump attached to the 15 gal tank isn't working...needs some tinkering. So I decided to try out a battery powered 4.5 gal backpack sprayer w/ diaphragm pump. Adapted it to use with the Gro-King spray gun and deep root injector. Really liking the setup so far.
Sometimes the numbers boggle my mind when it comes to the microscopic world. It's hard to fully comprehend. In the amount of soil in my hand here there are approximately 300,000 protozoa. And that's just one set of soil microorganisms! I love thinking about it in this way...helps to keep things in perspective. What's in your soil??
Trying to make the worm bin more productive for the end of winter. Ready for the growing season! Seedling heat mats laid on top with thermostat connected. The wool insulation has kept the area at a steady 40-50F through the cold, so I'm happy about that. Not too shabby for an outdoor setup. Now I want to see if I can assist the worms to be more productive.
Winter outdoor hand turn pile just started. It seems like I can't get away from these hand turn piles! 2 cubic yards at the start. Baled alfalfa/milo as high N, Fall cut grass/w**ds/veg plants as green, wood chips/sunflower stalks/leaves/straw as brown. Temos averaging mid 20s F for lows and high 40s F for highs. It's already cooking nicely.
Beautifully texted vermicast that was screened for sale. Love the feeling of well made compost.
I'm happy to be one of the participants in this upcoming webinar by the Soil Food Web School! We'll be answering questions related to our experience and involvement with the Soil Food Web community. Please come join us for this (and/or the other 3 webinars in this series). https://webinar.soilfoodweb.com/reg-webinar-the-soil-food-web-movement
Today I was viewing a sample of vermicompost from my outdoor (but insulated) CFT. Here are a handful of pics. Fungi, a ciliate, and an amoeba. The biology numbers were quite good for the middle of winter.
Guinea hens enjoying green clover and rye in the greenhouse in winter. Hardy cool weather plants!
Finding a lot of earthworms in the sunchoke patch as I'm harvesting. This is a huge improvement over 3 years ago when I started caring for this land. The process is to leave dead stalks standing until harvest, harvest with digging fork (heavy tillage by hand), then cover with a thick layer of mulch. While this has been the sunchoke patch for years, it was solid clay that I had to use a grubbing hoe to dig in year 1 of my care. A layer of mulch directly after harvest, replanting in March with a compost extract drench, and letting the patch grow undisturbed until harvest has made a huge difference. The ground is SO much easier to dig this year as compared to the previous two. Still quite clay heavy but the OM is working its way down there. And there are now a lot of earthworms working through the soil as well. Just a little TLC and soil biology can go a way toward recovery.
Composting tech is growing!
If you're in the Albuquerque area and interested in learning more about composting, I'd love to see you at the workshop being held this Thursday at the AgriNature Center in Los Ranchos. It runs from 6-7pm. We'll mainly cover thermophilic composting but can talk about other methods as well. I hope it will be a great learning experience for everyone attending!
Register at the following site: https://www.eventbrite.com/e/composting-workshop-tickets-171533951667
It is sunchoke (Jerusalem artichoke) harvesting time. They're a lot of work to dig up but definitely worth it. I'll hopefully pull over 500 lb by the end of February out of our little patch at the farm. And that's one of the awesome things about the sun homes, at least in our region....they store just fine over the winter in the ground where they grew. Just harvest as needed!
The new worm house is almost finished. Hopefully they'll be happier in there over the winter. I still need to add a hip board and end walls. Thee bulk of the work is finished. Working solo is usually enjoyable for me but with things like this, it can be quite exhausting!
Wood mulch! And a lot of it! One of my favorite natural resources for a garden. It can keep the soil cooler in summer and warmer in winter, retain moisture, add organic matter, provide habitat for microbes and insects, assist in "w**d" suppression, and more. This is a valuable material, not something to be sent to the dump.
This is the gourmet mushroom industry at work for you. Mountains of single use plastic bags. Sure, there are other ways to cultivate mushrooms and some people do employ those other methods. But this is SOP for many growers. It's very frustrating for me.
When thinking about soil health, along with the myriad of other considerations, one MUST consider soil biology. It is so surprising to me to hear a lot of talk about soil testing with no mention of measuring living organisms. Sure, the current best or most effective method for determining microbial soil life could be debated. From what I've learned shadowing microscopy is one of the best options right but and that's what I practice/offer in my lab. But my main point of that, in my opinion, there is no question that the conversation of soil testing these days should include some measure of soil microorganisms, both in quantity and diversity.
Well...it's been a while. I've spent some time getting reinvigorated about this venture. Now I'm ready to buckle down and work hard through the Winter in order to really get things settled for next growing season. I've ordered a caterpillar tunnel to keep the worms warmer in the Winter and cooler in the Summer. And I've ordered a Michigan SoilWorks CFT system to try to be more efficient and effective with my production. Additionally, I have been putting a lot of thought into packaging. One of my biggest issues is that I absolutely refuse to package in single use plastic bags. What's the point in trying to be part of the solution for one ecological disaster while being a major contributor to another through that very same work? The bags that I currently use for packaging are okay but the vermicompost dries out too quickly for my liking. There has to be a better solution, though I'm not sure yet what it is. Finally, there is plenty to do on the admin. side until warmer weather rolls back around. I strongly believe in this work and hope to make this business successful for the good of my sanity and the good of New Mexico landscapes. Who knows what will happen in the end but I will strive for success.
I'm making a naturalized, unsterile mushroom spawn. Oyster mushroom stems on cardboard. When myceliated it'll get transferred to some material outdoors to bulk up the mycelium further and get it ready to make an outdoor mushroom row/bed. This will be for a mushroom growing workshop the first weekend in September at the Eco-Regenerative Learning Center. Every time that I work with fungi directly these days I'm reminded how much I really enjoy it and kinda wish I still did on a regular basis. It's easy to get drawn in by the wonder of fungi.
Fungi that was in and around the root zone of some wild sunflowers that I was pulling. There are a good amount of wood chips in that area that were laid last fall.
Storing finished compost under Siberian elm trees to utilize their shade has resulted in this. The sweet, sweet compost was too good for the roots not to grow up into it! I'm sure they were also enjoying the excess water from my hydrating the compost. Piles are about 1-2 feet tall and the tree roots happily grew upwards to colonize the material. It's not ideal. So I plan to move all of the finished stuff to a different location. At least the roots that get brought to the new curing spot will become another source of organic matter for worms and microbes.
Bees aren't the only ones who love squash blossoms!
You can now find FCSH vermicompost .greenhouse! So excited that they are giving us a shot. and just got fresh bags as well. It would help me a lot of you local folks could go to your favorite nursery and ask for my worm castings. If they don't carry it yet, they may consider doing so if there's enough interest. If they do carry it, your support helps justify keeping it on the shelves. As an aside, this is literally a living product so I am adamant that the product doesn't sit on a shelf for more than a month. The older bags get rotated out for fresh ones. Lastly, if your headed to the this weekend, you can pick up a bag directly from me at my booth. Happy Friday, everyone!
Getting crafty again. Today I made this out of old PVC and lumber to help the bagging process on gal bags go a bit smoother. It works pretty well.
I rarely use pesticides and never use herbicides or fungicides. The majority of ____icides are non-selective, or if they are selective they often still have further reaching effects on soil biology than just the intended use. That includes a lot of organic ____icides. Not using products like this can make things quite a bit tougher, especially while in a phase of regenerating the soil. For me personally, sometimes the upsides outweigh the downsides and it can be a great backup/last effort to save the plants. BUT one result of not applying poisons to the land are a plethora of creatures showing up to help out. Praying mantis for example! And bees, wasps, lady bugs, assassin bugs, lizards, snakes, birds, etc. Some of these critters come with issues of their own when they visit the site. Overall, though, they are helping to set a balance. We need to learn more about systems theory and whole ecosystem management in order to understand some of the micro and macro climates we create by cultivating landscapes.
Morning glory wrapped in on itself, ready to bloom
First attempt at a little tea brew in my 60 gal brewer. I've been using a homemade 5 gallon CT brewer for several years but it is a hassle to clean so I figured I'd try a lil batch in a medium tank.
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