Diann Dirks

Famine, especially widely spread famine, is a word we never thought we’d hear in this land of plenty. We have had a history in this country of not only enough, but great abundance of not just staples but every imaginable kind of food, and inexpensive.

We go into the grocery store and see every kind of protein source – meats, fish, fowl, eggs, dairy in great variety, flavor and amounts. The produce departments are usually a rainbow of beautiful perfect fruits and vegetables from all over the world, also inexpensive.

A few years ago there was a nation wide survey of kids in middle school asking them where food came from and 90 plus percentage said ‘the store’ with no reality at all of where food actually comes from. The tiny few who said ‘dirt’ or ‘animals’ were verbally invalidated by the other children because they just didn’t understand.

There has been a movement among enlightened people to bring gardens to schools to give kids some reality on food, how to grow it, and even use the produce in the school cafeterias. Where it has been implemented it has been popular. But in our society most of the gardening until more recently has been done by the older population. “We go to grandma’s garden, we don’t have a garden ourselves.” And when asked if grandma taught them how to do it themselves, the attitude has been “why would we want to, we’re busy”.

Yet during the Great Depression of the 1920s and 30s, people survived economic collapse because they were at most 2 generations from an agrarian society. Everyone knew how to grow food. And during the depression, people plowed up their yards and put in gardens just to survive.

During WWII when most of the production of farms was going to the soldiers overseas, food was severely rationed. So the government encouraged “Victory Gardens” so people could still eat. During those time 40% of the food grown in this country came out of these victory gardens. People learned how to ‘can’ their abundance, smoked meat, salted down some, dehydrated food, and shared seeds. Articles appeared in magazines and newspapers on how to grow their own food. People kept chickens for eggs, and where there was land, people grew livestock for meat and milk for their own use.

Thrift became a way of life. Nothing was wasted. And we managed to survive those national crises. But we have existed in a new global world for so many years now, the younger generations have never known want, except in exceptionally impoverished circumstances. The average child never goes more than a few hours without food or snacks. We aren’t tough and we have never known real want in the majority of the population. Of course there have been exceptions to this; I’m not downplaying the plight of the very poor in this country. But the majority just doesn’t have those experiences.

We have blissfully known abundance all our lives. We have never been forced to forage for our food, grow our own or raise livestock just to put food on the table for ourselves and our children. So several whole generations are completely ignorant of these basic life skills.

Playing devil’s advocate, I for many years have been trying to educate people that this is a recipe for disaster. We never know in this world what will come next, and when those skills will be the difference between life and death. Most people just think money is the answer and will solve everything. Even long time farming families have sent their children off to college so they could have a ‘better life’. This has left a vast deficit of knowledgeable farmers, many of them passed on or growing too old to continue or teach. And even the small home farm is only just now making a come-back with farmers markets as outlets, because the ordinary grocery store is so lacking in nutrients, due to many years of chemical farming practices and knowledgeable people are falling back on old time practices. Enter genetically modified foods which we now know cause cancer and other health issues.

Unlike my generation (I was born in 1945, just at the end of WWII), these newer generations haven’t known real food. We ate food that was real. No chemicals just at the end of the war, when the war industries began to change over to agricultural implements and materials, we ate food that was untainted and nutritious and delicious.

We never saw fat kids then. In my whole elementary school there was only one fat child and he got fat because his Mexican mama fed him their diet when he broke his leg, and couldn’t exercise for 6 months. Mostly obesity now is caused by poverty and the preponderance of carbohydrate diets that keep the stomach filled, but do little to actually nourish lean muscle mass. Kids stay inside and play video games when in our era we never spent a minute inside that we didn’t have to. I never walked, I always ran. My bike almost wore out from the constant use as me and my friends roamed for miles. But of course that was before people became predators and traffickers of children like now. We got out and we moved. And we had the energy from the good food to live to the fullest.

Good pure food, exercise from an early age, constant use of our muscles, strength used to do ordinary things which are now done mostly by machines, made us lean and strong. We didn’t have motorized lawn mowers, we had push mowers and that took strength. We biked, we didn’t have motorized scooters, and we worked in the yard and did chores. Then we were off playing baseball at the corner vacant lot for hours and hours. No 3 hour games, we’d start after breakfast, go home for lunch, and rush back till dinner time around dusk, full on. Or we hiked in the woods, or biked for hours. We weren’t fat.

But we did have good food and plenty of it. And since that era we have been used to food in unending supply. And as a side note, we rarely got sick or if we got ‘childhood diseases’ which our mothers made sure we got when young, we were sick a few days, and recovered quickly and fully. We were healthy. We didn’t have ADHD or anything like that. We ran off our excess energy in recesses in school, not made to sit like robots for hours getting fidgety, and given ‘speed’ drugs to calm us down. We were healthy and strong, lean, and full of energy. We weren’t quietly starving living off sugary fake food.

Moving forward almost 80 years (from my birth), we have grown in population on the planet to almost 9 billion people from 4 or 5 back then. We have gone from small family farms to mega farms run on chemicals that are in dwindling supply, and which have caused the erosion and lost of billions of tons of precious top soil. We have contaminated the majority of our farm land as it has been forced to out produce its ability without the fertilizers. When plants are weakened by poor nutrition, they become vulnerable to disease and insects. So causing the necessity of more chemicals such as pesticides and funicides to fight them. This has killed off most of the valuable micro-organisms which actually make the nutrients in the soil available to the plants. So, we have food that looks pretty and perfect without bug bites, yet is a mere shadow of the food value of 80 years ago.

Food processing to fill out our food supply to make it tasty, full of sugar, salt, and carbs, has robbed us of the true value of fresh natural uncontaminated foods and has made us fat, as a culture. We are already slowly starving from this commercialization of our food supply for profit. Kids are falling victim to this by manifesting behavioral problems called ADHD etc., when in fact when these conditions are treated by detoxification and a change to natural organic diet, the symptoms often disappear and kids return to normal behavior. Diet is a huge factor in this because when deprived of the necessary nutrients in a growing developing body, kids act out from the inside out, and manifest slow starvation.

I’ve watched this for years and tried to educate people about this, but I am often met with incredulity from parents and people who are blinded by the ‘professionals’ who tell you the pharmaceutical is the answer and they know best. So, slow starvation and fake food has covered up something that has been a growing problem for at least 50 years, from personal observation but now backed up by serious research.

Enter in the growing political unrest and control factors brought by the globalists who would have us all live in cramped cities, and remove us people from the land. This was leaked with Agenda 21, and further made known thru Agenda 30, making less freedom, and more control, less land, and choices.

I’m certainly not the only one who has seen the actual game here. The people, who wish to rule the world like George Soros and Bill Gates, want less of us. This is so unbelievable we as a people can’t imagine such evil. Not in our world! Not in our live easy, live free, everything is fine world. We live in a bubble and therefore don’t prepare for possible outcomes.

Just from a devil’s advocate viewpoint, what if the things that have been happening in our world aren’t coincidence or just random occurrences. What if the pandemic wasn’t just a random problem, but an intended depopulation action? And since that didn’t kill off people as planned (devil’s advocate remember), in order to profit from this caused-laboratory-genocidal-plan, in came vaccines which were supposedly created in 6 months. But in fact those vaccines were actually patented a couple of years before that. And they weren’t actually vaccines, but lab substances meant to destroy the immune system and flood the body with heavy metals which either kill immediately or later. Thousands have died within a week or two of being inoculated but the information has been squelched in the media, owned by the same bad guys profiting from all this. Meant to create delayed illness such as auto-immune, cancer, and failures of the systems within 3 years, and sped up by ‘boosters’ being heavily promoted.

But what if that wasn’t fast enough to bring down the population 85%?  What if the whole game was really vast wealth grab, land grab, totalitarian control by a few? In fact that is what it is looking more and more like being the actual game. But this is so vastly unbelievable and evil, people can’t imagine it and have to slough it off as ‘conspiracy theory nonsense’. But how do you hide things from the public? You PR it off as something not to be considered or campaign covertly to make those ideas unacceptable or crazy.

OK, yes, this is unbelievable, yet have you noticed how many liberties we have lost through gov regulations and various laws? For just one example, have you noticed how children can be so easily removed from families by child protective services, taken from their homes. Think about those things we see in the news that you just can’t believe are happening. So many things we would have been hollering about in protect 30 years ago are now just considered news bites and not serious? It’s about control of our freedoms and liberties. We can fight back with knowledge and good planning. I don’t advocate violence.

So, continuing with the devil’s advocate viewpoint, if a pandemic didn’t kill off enough people, and the vaccine didn’t kill off enough of us, next in line is the destruction of our food supply and distribution. Just starve us, that should do the trick. If we don’t just quietly starve because the food isn’t nutritious, then what if it isn’t being grown or the trucks can’t bring what is being grown to our neighborhoods, and we don’t know how to grow our own. Then what happens when your neighbor with 3 little kids can’t feed them, and you have a survival supply of food, and he owns a shotgun. He’ll get food for those kids somehow! That’s the nature of parenthood. So we’ll end up killing each other for that last bag of beans, and that will further deplete the population through riots, roaming bands of hungry people, like a crazed army.

In case you haven’t been to the grocery store lately, in the past two years we have already seen the price of groceries go up as much as 50%. This is seen weekly as prices climb and climb. This isn’t imagination. We are loosing ground. This is published information anyone can access. We have lost 3 valleys of prime agricultural land in California because gov regulations have cut off water supply to them. Food processing plants and distribution centers have been ‘mysteriously’ burned to the ground in the past year – over 60 of them!

These same globalists with the agenda of lowering drastically the population are also promoting people eat no meat, and now we are seeing in the news the promotion of laboratory created meat and even milk that has not a shred of actual food in it. Even if you fill your stomach with plastic that looks like food and tastes like food, your cells are screaming to be fed. We have seen the destruction of thousands of cattle through inexplicable events “On top of that, mysterious fires, alleged bird flu outbreaks and other inexplicable events are killing off livestock and destroying crucial infrastructure. Since the end of April 2021, at least 96 farms, food processing plants and food distribution centers across the U.S. have been damaged or destroyed by fire (see below).2,3” “An estimated 10,000 cattle also perished in Ulysses, Kansas, in mid-June 2022,4 under mysterious circumstances. The official claim is that the cattle died from heat stress, but that seems highly unlikely. Heat could conceivably kill some weaker cattle, but 10,000 on the same day?” * This is no coincidence.

Of course this hasn’t hit every corner of the world, some will be hit harder than others. And time enters in as some areas are able to recover and others don’t have the available resources to rebuild or recover. But if the globalists with their power and resource availability really want to cause genocide planet wide,  and we are too dazed or unaware to notice the noose is tightening, and do nothing, then we will see famine, societal unrest, and chaos. This is what these people want because it’s the great ‘heist’ of global resources. They don’t want all of us ‘useless eaters’ standing in the way of their agenda. So, the solution is to get rid of us, and profit from it at ever step. They aren’t stupid.

But neither are we if we pay attention and plan.

I don’t advocate filling our basements with MREs  (meals, ready to eat, military ration packets) or thinking we can gather enough food for years to feed us through the coming problems, though certainly a rational gathering of staples such as dehydrated vegetables and meats, beans and rice, and other food stuffs is an excellent idea. We call this normal insurance against hard times.

What I do recommend though is learning how to grow your own fresh foods in a garden on your land or sharing land where it is available in a community garden, friendly farmer’s land which isn’t being cultivated at the time, or even roof top gardens or patio containers.

Eating stored food only nourishes us partially. We need live food for enzymes and live vitamins. We need the special water stored in vegetables for real health. And we need to be able to generate our own food no matter where we live. This means we need more than anything to build the skills to grow our own food.

We have let others grow and produce our own food for so long, we mostly have no idea of the actual effort needed to create food. We have been outside of that loop and worse, have considered it unnecessary or even in some cases beneath our consideration. But those times are changing. That requires a gradient of skills. It also requires seeds and physical work. And a great deal of knowledge to actually be able to produce enough food to replace the grocery store. But certainly given the conditions of the day, that effort and consideration needs to be expanded if we are to survive this planned depopulation agenda. And it is very real. If it looks like a duck, quacks like a duck but is purple, it’s still a duck.

Some people just can’t even imagine doing this. So, there are people now who are going back to the family farm, the home grown food subsistence lifestyle, selling their produce at local farmers markets, or CSAs (Community Supported Agriculture – the subscription farm where you pay a certain amount for a quarter, half or whole year, then receive a box of produce weekly or bi-weekly). This is a growing movement and well worth supporting and participating in.

Or you can partially rely on others, and find a way to grow some of your own fresh vegetables and fruits on whatever land you can utilize. Or gather some friends and sort out aspects of this then trade.

I have been teaching people organic gardening for 13years here on my subdivision lot, in a demonstration garden with an intern program. I have also taught classes to groups and even early on gave a series of 5 classes each at my local two libraries. They were very poorly attended which told me how little people valued these skills. But then why bother when the grocery stores were full of cheap affordable food? But that is about to change.

The internet is full of information about gardening. YouTube has loads of videos from knowledgeable growers willing to share their information and techniques for free. I watch them all the time and keep learning from them. There are groups on Face book and various groups who do seed swaps, farm tours, various foraging groups, and even people who sell their produce through on-line farmers markets or CSAs. Finding those contacts now is a good idea. There is no lack of information. But the thing we must do now is realize this is important and do something now while there is still food in the stores and we have enough money to purchase what we need with prices skyrocketing. It’s bringing up our necessity level and awareness to act now while we have it relatively easy.

I really hate gloom and doom articles meant to make us feel hopeless and helpless, which further plays into the hands of those who would control us all. My motto is “WE CAN ALWAYS DO SOMETHING ABOUT IT!”

So, what should we do right now?

  1. Find someone who can teach us how to grow and preserve our own food. This could  include grandma or Aunt Thelma with the green thumb, a neighbor with a vegetable garden, or the local county Extension Officer in your area who might have classes available in gardening. Find an internship program like mine in your area and get your hands dirty. Take a class at a local community college or community garden.
  2. Start by growing something. This could include purchasing some 5 gal. buckets at your local home improvement store or bakery, drill some ¼ inch holes in the bottom and fill with planting soil mix. Purchase some vegetable seeds at the nursery, online at a seed company like Baker Creek Heirloom Seed Co, or get some from a gardening friend, and plant them. Keep them watered appropriately and watch them grow. Or purchase already started plants from your local hardware store or nursery. Meanwhile read up on that plant and see what it needs to thrive.
  3. Turn some of your yard into raised beds, watch videos on how to do this on YouTube, plenty of them there, and start growing season appropriate plants of things you like to eat and are nutritious. Engage your kids in helping you and instill in them the joy and miracle of growing plants and their own food. My mother gave me my very own first plot 3’ x3’ when I was 3 years old and I never lost the love of it or the wonder.

Find likeminded people who see the need to be self-reliant and talk to them, meet with them, organize meeting with them, and learn as much as you can. There is a wonderful growing women’s organization of homesteaders called Ladies Homestead Gathering of which I have been a member since its inception, finding a wonderful supportive group for self-reliance.  https://ladieshomesteadgathering.org/  But there are gardening clubs and other groups all over the country which can help you learn.

  1. Start gathering seeds and place them in your freezer for those things you wish to grow. Only bother with  ‘heirloom, heritage, or open pollinator’ varieties, ignoring all ‘hybrid’ varieties, when purchasing or trading for seeds. You can’t save the seeds of hybrid kinds because they don’t breed true, but the first kinds do. Then learn how to save seeds (check out YouTube or the internet, or purchase a book about it) so you can maintain the diversity of food growing seeds into the future. Once you grow a vegetable or fruit from these varieties and save the seeds, you will never be without food.
  2. Start!

If you can manage the space, start out with a small clutch of laying chickens and learn how to manage them. They eat a variety of foods which include some kitchen scraps, bugs, wild plants, etc, (again, YouTube, or a book on the subject) and you have a protein source of eggs. If you can also have a rooster, you can have an endless supply of baby chicks and future of meat and eggs. This is a skill based activity so do your homework before getting chickens. They do require some simple equipment and fencing to keep away predators and keep them from running away. They like to be in groups and I find 6 is about the minimum number for regular production of eggs once they grow up enough to lay.

Learn how to hunt if you live in an area with abundant deer or rabbits. Find some seasoned hunters and a mentor because you don’t want to do this without skills! But two deer a year well processed can provide a considerable amount of animal flesh protein.

Go in on a cow with friends to provide you with milk, cheese, fermented milk products like yogurt and kefir, cream, whey and other nutritious foods. One good cow can produce a tremendous amount of food and protein. You will need pasture space, and a source of hay for cold months and a place to shelter her. This is also a skilled activity, but if you have friends who have the space, do a mini co-op and share the labor and products. Goats require less space and are smaller and easier to house, and if used very fresh is delicious and very much like cow’s milk. Older goat’s milk can be gamy though, so this is a fresh use for milk and products.

Learn to preserve your food by canning, dehydrating, smoking, salting, pickling,  and fermenting, so none of your hard won production goes to waste. Your Extension Officer can provide information on this, and there are good on-line classes available on YouTube.

If all this seems overwhelming, I always recommend starting small. On this blog site I have a number of articles which are well researched and helpful. One is about the 3 foot garden method. https://thegardenladyofga.wordpress.com/2022/05/09/the-three-foot-square-garden-gardening-on-a-tight-schedule-5-9-22/ The Three Foot Square Garden –Gardening on a Tight Schedule 5-9-22 When you have a busy life, this is the way to get started and continue on about an hour a day. I have used this method for many years when I had a business and couldn’t spend my days working in my garden. It works.

I live by the concept that if you know the tech of something, can apply it, and do so, you can’t be the adverse affect of this. (LRH reference “Your Post and Life”) Learning is a gradient process. One skill builds upon the other. In the case of feeding yourself and your family, now is the time to master basic skills which can be added to as the need arises, to give you life sustenance. Without it we are at the mercy of the economy, the distribution of supplies when fuel becomes too expensive and the trucks aren’t running, and the politicians who are the puppets of the people who would be your masters.

Mahatma Gandhi once told a story to a person who wanted to help him with his journey to free the people of India from their British oppressors who had stolen India’s cotton and cotton fabric industry (at that time the finest in the world) by forcing the people of India to turn over all their cotton production so England could mill and weave cotton fabric. This person asked Gandhi why he didn’t gather all his resources and have a huge recognizable and powerful event, protesting for his people. He wisely said by using all their resources to do such a thing in the hopes of influencing international sentiment, they would blow those resources on a news cycle lasting maybe a week or less, only then to be forgotten. But he said England couldn’t suppress a million Indian women quietly spinning and weaving their own cotton clothing in their homes. That was what was going to bring down England’s control over their fate. Being non-violent he finally won the day and India was freed of England’s suppression.

300 million Americans growing their own food in their back yards, on patios, on rooftops, in their local community gardens, or cooperating with neighbors to utilize some spaces, growing their own food, cooperating with a cow or some chickens, feeding themselves, and being free of rising prices and distribution problems will keep us free.

Diann Dirks, Certified Permaculture Designer and consultant, 55 year organic grower, teacher, internship provider, researcher and author. You can contact me via email at didirks@comcast.net, on my FB Page The Garden Lady of Georgia, or on this blog site.


Posted in Emergency Preparedness, Food protection, Gardening, organic gardening, Permaculture, Planet restoration, Planetary management using Permaculture, Preparedness, Protecting our way of life., Saving seeds and cultivars, Seed propagation, Self-Sustainability, The beginning Gardener information, The future, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Dehydrating for Survival – Using a Dehydrator 5-27-22

Preserving food and herbs by dehydration is a superb and long lasting way of saving the harvest of your garden or food forest, or the gleanings of foraging. Making the most use of this method of preservation has been a long quest of mine.

I wanted to share some of those lessons and ways I use my dehydrator for which some may be out of the ordinary.

Mine almost never turns off because I am always putting my herbs and vegs in there. It’s a very useful tool. I’ve had one going now for about 15 years. Before that in Calif. for about 25.

I make my own supplements and herbal remedies so the dehyd comes in very handy for preservation and preparation.

I make teas from the herbs, gathering them individually, putting them from the dehyd into big plastic containers I save from nut mixes from the store and other uses. Sometimes I use mason jars but often they aren’t large enough for my use. Later I take the individual herbs and blend them into remedies or beverages. I don’t mix then dehydrate because some dry at different rates and you don’t want to try to store something that has even the smallest amount of moisture as it spoils.

During harvest in the summer I often have way too many green beans. I don’t like them canned, but I dehyd them, and powder them, later to be added to soups or stews as a thickener and added nutrition. I use a little hand held electric coffee grinder for a lot of these uses. I have also rehydrated them for stews later.

I save the greens from my organic carrots (and other root vegs, but carrots are the best) as they actually contain a LOT of beneficial phytonutrients, so they get dried, powdered, and also added with the beans and other vegetable powders for added nutrition.

I don’t like Southern cooking much but the green tops from many of the root vegetables are loaded with nutrition and can likewise be dried and powdered. It’s almost a kind of spice mix to blend those veg. powders together and sprinkle them on cooking food like eggs, or meat rubs.

I use the dehyd for my medicinal herbs a LOT. At various times of the year many medicinal plants are abundant. I cut the flowers from valerian (a ‘nervine’ for anxiety and sleep), elderberry (when I’m not making a tincture with them), goldenrod, ground ivy (detoxes heavy metal), stinging nettle (nutritious and detoxes heavy metal), cilantro (detoxes heavy metal) – the last three I blend the powders, and put them in ‘00’ capsules as a detox remedy. I dry yarrow flowers as a preservation method, and later blend them in tinctures or oils as yarrow has compounds that actually get cells to reproduce to heal, and other benefits. This is especially useful for topical applications for healing wounds or skin abrasions. Many herbs can’t be made into oils or salves if they have too much moisture in them.

I save and dry the butt ends of my bread rather than have them spoil, then later in the food processor make my own bread crumbs for meat loaf or meat balls.

I cut fine sheets of screening to conform to the shelves in my dehyd for fine things like seeds or delicate herbs, and sometimes if it’s really fine drying material, muslin fabric.

If I am making highly nutritious material that has enough nutrients in it even after making tea or tincture, I spread the wet material over the fabric and let it dry, then powder that. It can be added to food. Things like Chaga mushroom or other mushrooms can be loaded with nutrition even after other uses. Even things that would be considered slurry can be placed on plastic sheeting in a dehyd shelf. This is how fruit leather is made. Blend fresh fruit to a thick slurry, then pour it thinly on a plastic sheet on the dehydrator and when thoroughly dry, roll it up and place it in a zip lock baggie.

I dehyd mushrooms for preservation and powder them later as needed for remedies. When it’s chanterelle season, or other abundant mushroom seasons, this is a great way to later store for use in winter or out of season.

Almost any plant or plant like material (like mushrooms) when there is an overwhelming abundance can be dehydrated for later use since it reduces the volume vastly. Like beets. I cut them up in thin slices, dehyd them and powder them. My husband hates the taste of them but they are highly beneficial, so they go into capsules and he’ll take them that way.

Other than the usual preservation methods, for survival considerations, taking large amounts of meat like a deer harvest and making jerky from the relatively low fat areas of the carcass is good preservation. If you have a hunting family, you might want more than one dehydrator for this reason. Some people smoke their meat, but not all meat lends itself to this method. Likewise fish harvests. If you wish to add flavor to your meat or fish, roll them in spice powder before dehydrating.

Some people either freeze or dehyd leftovers that they later throw in a crock pot when making soup. No waste!

You can use a dehyd to dry fabric after dying if you don’t have a place to hang it dry, same goes for spun fibers once they have been cleaned.

You can use a dehyd to make paper too, leaf at a time, though it should be sandwiched in between screening so it doesn’t curl up; maybe weight it down here and there for this reason too. Some people use garden leaf material and flowers to make paper and this takes awhile to dry otherwise.

Of course using a dehydrator to make fruit leathers is a common use. As is dehydrating tomato slices and other vegetables for storage.

I sometimes use my dehydrator to proof my yeast bread though not inside on a shelf. Mine has a vent at the top of the stacked trays and this is a very nice heat source, not too harsh, for keeping yeast dough just warm enough to rise. I set it on top (not over the vent directly, placing spacers between the vent and the bowl) and cover with a plastic sheet which captures the warm air coming up. Since mine is always on, this doesn’t waste energy firing up the oven for warmth.  

A dehydrator doesn’t have to fully dry something to be useful – like the yeast rising – and sometimes you just want to dry something a bit for use. When I am making salves and ointments, and I’m in a hurry, rather than letting my herbs fresh from the garden wilt overnight, I’ll lay them on trays in the dehyd, and turn it on a low temp, like 85 or 90F and watch them till they are just sufficiently wilted, then proceed with the salve process.

My dehydrator came with a supply of yogurt cups which fit exactly into the thicker shelves. I have an L’Equip which is stacked plastic shelves, with two depths of shelves, rather than the shelves like drawers that pull out in some models. But which ever kind you have, if you can get pans or containers in your dehydrator you can program the temperature perfectly to make yogurt.

If you make soap, adding plant material to the soap can add to the benefits of the soap, or the aesthetics. Drying flower petals like roses, calendula, thyme flowers, or other herbals like mint, when just lightly dehydrated to hold their shape in the soap can be very helpful. They don’t have to be 100% dry for this as soap is a wet process. Usually you add the colorful bits just after ‘trace’ (thickening of the soap at the end of the process). But you can use them dry later out of season when harvested at their peak, and then added in to soap recipes.

It was a common practice in the early years of this country to dry fruit in abundance during the harvest to later make pies. Apples were routinely dried and taken across the country in covered wagons in barrels to be rehydrated and made into famous dried apple pie when fresh fruit was unobtainable. Any fruit can be used like that.

There were/are a number of food preservation methods – salting, pickling, smoking, canning, freezing, jerking, preserving in honey, making jams with sugar preserves, and these days vacuum packing, but dehydrating is one of the oldest and longest lasting preserving methods man has used. Any abundance, almost, can be stored better by removing the moisture since without moisture fungus, bacteria and other invasive pathogens can’t take hold and spoil.

Having a dehydrator is one of the most useful kitchen tools I know, and makes the process of drying so much simpler, hygienic, and efficient. The amount of energy used in one is about like a light bulb, very good energy use.

I like the modern dehydrators and did quite a bit of research before purchasing one. Mine is an L’Equip, because it has excellent controls of time and temperature. It comes with 6 shelves, 2 1”, 4 2” deep. But it is so powerful it can hold up to 20 shelves which can be purchased in two shelf sets. I currently have 12 running all the time. But I would use more if I had space.

But you can make a solar dehydrator DIY https://offgridworld.com/how-to-make-a-solar-powered-food-dehydrator/ (there are many free plans on the web), food preservationsolar food dehydratorsolar food dryer or purchased https://spheralsolar.com/best-solar-dehydrator/.

Buying a dehydrator is a matter of need, use, and budget. The above site for purchased styles includes solar dehydrator styles.

But you can start out with a cheap one from Wal-Mart or something online or a hanging bag style (see in the purchased solar site above), or a glass frame with shelves, though they can get pretty hot and you have to watch the temperature on those kind. Start simple and experiment. I found it a lot of fun to use and try different things with it. I spent about $185 because I’m an herbalist and a gardener, so I needed a kind that would hold up to long hard use. I had one before I purchased at a state fair about 40 years ago which was the shelf kind which were made of screening in a frame, and pulled out. But I finally wore it out and it didn’t have temperature control. I save the framed screen shelves though and pile them on top of my L’Equip for softer drying. Nothing goes to waste!

5-27-22 Diann Dirks

Posted in Flowering plants', Food Forest, Gardening, Herb gardening, making medicine, Making Medicine DIY, Permaculture, Preparedness, Recycle, repurpose, reuse, Uncategorized | Tagged | Leave a comment

The Three Foot Square Garden –Gardening on a Tight Schedule 5-9-22

Diann Dirks

Many years ago when I was working 16-20 hour weeks, I found a way to have a very productive garden on about one hour a day. I had a small plot of land – 5000 sq. foot – with a house, drive way, patio spaces and both sides of an 1175 square foot house, and two postage stamp lawns front and back. This was a tiny amount of space but once started, it grew almost effortlessly, fit into a very busy schedule.

On that property in a subdivision in Southern California, 2/3 of the backyard was garden. I also had about 1/3 of the front yard on the border of the property between that and the drive way, another bed, one by the front of the sidewalk, and some ornamentals around the front patio. Everything was very small.

When we first moved there 23 years before we moved to Georgia, the soil was hard gray clay, very alkaline and unforgiving. After working on areas around the house I was growing so much food and herbs, I was leaving grocery bags of produce on the doors of nearby elderly neighbors. And anyone visiting left with a big bag of veggies and fruit. Size doesn’t matter. You can grow your own food! Even if all you have is a patio or a flat roof strong enough to bear weight.

I loved to watch Martha Stewart on TV and one day she was doing a program on gardening. But it wasn’t the vast areas she usually talked about. This time we showed how to make a 3’ x 3’ garden space surrounded by pathways. It was a light bulb moment for me. The possibilities expanded in my mind. Wow, I CAN do this with the little time I have.

And ever since I have used this technique to make and grow a garden when time was of the essence.

I found that I could mark out this kind of small bed, dig up the soil, or create a raised bed, and in one hour slots of my busy day, work that bed. First was creation of soil so I had a compost pile, collected grass clippings from neighbors (who didn’t spray their lawns) for soil amending and top mulch, made friends with a local juice bar for their shredded vegetables they usually just threw away for composting, and found no-spray straw (never hay, too many weed seeds) for mulch.

With these resources, I could dig up the clay, mix it with compost if I had it or purchased some from the nursery by the bag, or just mixed it with juice bar leavings, maybe half a bag of purchased composted manure from the nursery, mix it up, plant some seeds, water it, and leave.

The next day I’d make sure the bed was watered. Then start the next one. Later when everything was planted bed by bed, that hour was used to walk around the beds, picking any tiny weeds, putting out some mulch around the growing babies, making sure all was the right moisture level, looking for any bugs or problems. Every day, a happy hour in the garden was my time. Stress dissipates in a garden! As the garden soil built up with every successive season adding more compost and working in good organic matter, the soil became black rich loam, perfect for growing anything. I had 5 year old tomato plants in that California climate. Anything I planted grew beautifully. After a year or so, that hour could cultivate an empty bed, pulling any weeds, adding some compost, planting seeds or putting in some nursery tomatoes or other already started plants, putting in a couple of supports where needed, and mulching. Voila, a planted viable bed! Soon, food.

Instead of trying to create long beds, putting in large rows, and wearing myself out, that little 3’ plot was a manageable amount of space to cultivate. I didn’t plant rows, I fit the whole bed with plants, making sure each plant had enough space to grow. This is called intensive gardening. Some things did better with other plants, companions (see my article in the blog about companions) so I’d mix companion plants up in the bed. Often I’d throw in a flower especially marigolds which protect plants against certain soil born pathogens (organisms that cause disease) along with the other plants. Sometimes I’d throw in a few onions or garlic buds (but never by any pea or bean plants, they aren’t good neighbors). Onions and garlic repel certain bad bugs.

There’s a good book on small gardening called Square Foot Gardening. It tells you how much space each kind of plant needs for one square foot. A 3’ bed has 9 square feet and you can grow a lot of carrots, lettuce, a few tomato plants, or any number of kinds of good food plants or herbs in 9 square feet.

I made sure the 1’ wide pathways between the beds were covered with straw. This absorbs rain so I didn’t have to walk thru muddy areas to tend my garden. It also keeps the weeds down and holds in the moisture for the surrounding beds. This kind of mulch needs to be added to now and then, breaks down into composted soil, and later can be dug up and added to the beds.

Later in the season, as many of the vegetables were pulled out – harvested, or spent – I’d pull them up and throw in a handful of compost, then replant. This is called successive planting and it doesn’t waste those precious inches of garden space. I never leave open garden space – it will just grow weeds and dissipate the nutrients and moisture in that soil.

Using compost continues to keep the soil moist, friendly to worms, the gardener’s friend, and improves the texture. Compost also keeps the clay soil light. With high clay composition, I also added gypsum which keeps clay from clumping so hard. And I would put in some sand and ash from the fireplace when I had it, in small amounts to increase the mineral content of the soil. Continuously adding these amendments to the soil keeps it improving over the months and years.

By doing these small projects of one hour every day or every other day, it’s manageable.

Then once everything is planted, going out every day to observe, do some watering and observation, pulling a few weeds when they emerge – which keeps ahead of hours spent pulling more established weeds, is not only enjoyable, but keeps one in communication and communing with the plants, soil, growing, and seasons.

Many plants can be harvested a month or so after the beginning of the summer season, and as they mature. That hour includes taking a basket out with you, picking the lettuce, pulling the mature radishes, etc. After the end of May I usually brought in enough lettuce for fresh salads, some root vegetables, maybe some Swiss chard.

As the seasons progress more and more food comes out of the garden. The weeds pulled just get laid on the ground where they came from if they haven’t gone to seed yet. But the spent plants all went into the compost pile along with kitchen waste, coffee grounds, tea bags, egg shells, potato peelings, etc. Everything goes on but meat or bones, citrus peels, avocado skins. Even rotten food goes on. I used kitty litter products only on the non-food plants because of possible parasites, and never around food or herb plants. It’s OK to use them around trees and bushes though.

My day would consist of working, coming home, having a quick snack, going out with my basket and maybe a little pruner called a secateurs, and a bag collected from the kitchen waste. That would go on the compost pile. Then I’d walk around for a bit looking at existing beds, watching for emerging seeds, seeing the plants mature, looking for yellowing leaves (plants needing water, nutrients, or bug infestation), pulling a few weeds. Then if a bed was ready for planting, I’d add some compost from under the compost pile, dig that in, add a couple of handfuls of sand, maybe some composted manure from a bag, work that in. Then if I had nursery plants, I’d plant them, water them in, put a few handfuls of straw or grass clippings around the newly planted babies, and leave. It’s such a small space, that all gets done quickly.

If you have a garden space of just about any size in a sub division, if you have sunny space, access to water, and a corner to put in a compost pile or compost tumbler, you can grow a tremendous amount of food.

I didn’t use boxes or bed surrounds then. I didn’t find out about that technique till much later. And I still dug up my soil instead of planting on top of the hard packed soil. You can do it that way too, just keep the size of the bed to a manageable size.

A couple of tips in planting.

I liked to put a marigold in every plot, or some kind of flower to attract the bees and pollinators. Some herbal flowers are also medicinal such as chamomile, or calendula, or nasturtiums, but I used only annuals in those beds. If you want to grow perennial herbs such as oregano or thyme, they need to go in perennial only beds because their roots get disturbed every seasonal change when annuals get planted and it is harmful to them. Also many of the perennials spread out and take over the little annual beds so choose a space for them where they can grow out or put them in pots.

Some plants need upward support. Tomatoes do best when supported by cages made of heavy gauge metal wire. Get the strongest heaviest ones you can and the tallest ones. The cheap short ones are easily overwhelmed and just fall down. Useless. You can also use bamboo you drive into the soil but make sure it’s old bamboo or it will grow if newly cut down. Bamboo can be a devil to get rid of.

I use bamboo or long sticks pruned from my trees to make my own supports like teepees for pole beans, cucumbers, melons and other vining vegetables. I use heavy duty cable ties to bind them together. But you can get fancy and use hog panels purchasable from farm supply stores, curved around into a wide tube. Metal supports can last a long time.

If you are growing your garden in a climate that has four seasons, you can grow cool weather crops in the spring, fall and even in winter (if you cover them with plastic over a support making a mini green house – I lay my tomato cages on the ground as a plastic sheet support, alternating direction). Then hot weather plants start seeds in late February in a sunny window, and plant out in mid May or early June. Start cool weather varieties in late September, shaded from hot sun. Purchase your seeds or trade with other gardeners, and keep your seeds in a cool, dark, dry place. Many garden groups have seed swaps in spring and fall where they have excess seeds to trade.

Look into these subjects to help you with your journey – Companion Gardening – book ‘Carrots Love Tomatoes’; ‘Lasagna Gardening’ for soil creation; do your own research into composting and compost and manure tea on the internet; look into Seasonal planting – from your local county Extension Officer for plants that grow in your area, or Google seasonal planting.

It is also often beneficial to join a local community garden where you can often take on a little plot, and learn from the people who are more seasoned gardeners. Sometimes there are classes at the local community garden or garden clubs for beginning gardeners for more hands-on training and workshops in your local area. And sometimes a seasoned gardener will just mentor you out of community spirit.

Don’t be intimidated. Start small and build your growing space as you gain experience and confidence. Putting down some good soil, putting in a plant, even if you just start out using a big pot and some potting store from the building supply store, gives you some experience. If you kill some plants, don’t be dismayed. Ask questions. Do your research watching YouTube videos on gardening – there are many really good gardeners who share their knowledge there.

If you don’t have a big yard, containers on the patio or around ornamentals in established beds can get you started.

But most of all, enjoy yourself. Get your hands dirty, watch a seed come to life, look forward to picking and eating your first tomato or radish from your own garden. This is joyful stuff. It’s calming, helps with anxiety, and is grounding to the emotions and the body’s energy systems. I wish you all the luck. Turn that little patch in the back yard into your first little garden, it gives you bragging rights, can connect you to local communities of gardeners, and in harsh times, gives you the basis for real survival skills.

Read other articles in the blog and ask questions if you have them. I always answer questions when posted. I also have an internship program in Auburn, Ga., if you live nearby in its 11th year, love giving talks to groups, teach classes as requested, and do workshops upon request as well.

Best of Luck

Diann Dirks, Certified Permaculture Designer, organic gardener of over 50 years, consultant, educator, author, and happy gardener

Posted in Gardening, Herb gardening, organic gardening, Permaculture design precept applications, Seed propagation, Self-Sustainability, The beginning Gardener information, Uncategorized, winter gardening | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

The Portable Farm (or Garden) 4-27-2022

Diann Dirks

We live in changing times. People are moving around more trying to find the most suitable and survivable conditions and situations for living. But if you are like me and love being able to grow your own food and medicinal plants, uprooting is painful and challenging. If you have a big viable garden or wish to get into food production but don’t really have an ideal piece of land or situation to do that, you might be looking for solutions outside the box of the traditional half acre of land. Maybe you are just coming around to the idea that it might be advantageous if not vital to be able to control your own food supply, whether somewhat or full-on, you may be looking at trying to do that under not optimal conditions, like not much space to grow a garden, or having to take your food making or plant medicine making ability with you.

In any of these cases, being able to grow at least some of your food is a very good idea. The grocery store seems to be having trouble delivering all that people need as evidenced by the areas of empty shelving, or poor selections in the produce section I’ve been seeing lately – April 2022. We’re being told it’s due to distribution and transportation problems, but behind the scenes, our bread basket areas in the country like California have lost 3 of their 5 main valleys of food production because political conditions have cut off their water and they have returned to desert. Also in Texas and Arizona they are experiencing drought and growing a lot less food. Now much of our food is coming from places like Guatemala, Mexico, and even China (not recommended as China is very polluted and they use chemicals a lot). Add to that the increased use of chemical herbicides and pesticides on our non-organic food in this country which is increasingly leading to chronic illnesses, we have to rethink our food supply. Food safety and security are now issues.

In some quarters it is even being referred to as a ‘food crisis’. From my vantage point I agree that the more we take on the growing of our own food, the better off we are and in future it might even be vital.

I have a demonstration garden. In it I have many growing conditions which I teach in my internship here in NE Georgia. We have 4 seasons, very acidic compact soil, and challenges such as this property is steep, not flat. Georgia Clay is famous for being harder than cement in fact if you take a rock and a chunk of Georgia Clay and smash them together, legend has it that it’s the rock that breaks.

Joking aside, when I am called out to consult a client here I have to address the horrible hard clay situation almost always when someone wants a garden.

Usually I recommend not trying to change the clay soil, but to build raised beds above the clay, and over time the worms and plants break up the clay below the raised beds giving the roots deeper penetration. And I recommend the pathways be covered with 4 to 6” of woodchips which in a couple of years break down into black rich loamy soil which can then be added to the beds. This also keeps the moisture in the soil and helps against evaporation of critical rain additions to the adjoining beds.

A garden with raised beds or containers surrounded by wood chip paths holds moisture beautifully and cuts down on erosion as well as giving the eventual source of composted soil which can be added to beds and containers. It’s all win-win.

But advantages of container gardening or farming for large or small growing environments are many. Time-wise, having the soil already ready for planting is huge. Establishing a raised bed garden of enough capacity to feed a family of 4 for example, can take a couple of years by the time you take into consideration people have jobs, kids to raise, houses to keep, etc. But containers with soil are instant set ups. You can add more as you grow your area if it’s a garden. Or for a larger farm, you can mass produce containers with sufficient soil and planters, and then in a few hours or days, whisk them off to a new location, not loosing soil or plants. This might be a vital thing if political situations change. Also you can move such a garden or farm into a cave with sufficient grow lights and space, and means to heat the space and solar or wind electricity generation. It’s very versatile and nimble.

The method of raised beds only works if you can stay in one location for quite awhile. If you have to bug out, or need to move for financial or other reasons, being able to take your garden with you, or establish one that is portable would be a very good thing.

You can take containers on a flat bed truck or trailer, or if not too long a stay inside a truck or covered trailer, transport shelved “Pods” to another location, relocated to a prepared area, and keep on growing. You’d only have to ensure the plants had sufficient moisture for a few days of transportation. Plants can usually survive 3 days without light.

The thing I have realized is that it isn’t just the plants that need to be moved sometimes, but more valuably, it’s the soil. Plants can be replanted if you have the soil space for them, and good growing medium.

I’ve heard the argument that hydroponics is a better way to go for growing because the water doesn’t have to be transported, the nutrients are condensed and transportable, and it all can go in a semi. But I personally don’t think the nutrient component or energetics of food grown with hydroponics comes near to the nutrition and health factors as food grown in good organic mineral rich soil. We are connected to the earth, and plants are too. You can get volumes of food that way with commercial hydroponics, and they can contain the bare basics of nutrition from hydroponics, but somehow this doesn’t feel right to me intuitionally. Hydroponics seems like a lesser product.

Plus hydroponics requires a constant source of electricity to run the pumps that circulate the liquid medium. If water is under pressure from gravity feed, drip systems on container gardens don’t need electricity to run pumps. Or what is needed can be provided with solar on a slow pump action, bringing water constantly up into a higher position to cause gravity feed pressure. A pump like that can continue to pump water from a water source (rain barrel, spring, cistern) off of a battery all night, to be full at a higher elevation every day as long as there’s water to be pumped.

Also for perennial plants, which tend to get large such as trees and bushes, as well as smaller woody herbs, they are happiest in soil.

In my garden I have several kinds of potentially portable containers which could be uplifted onto a trailer with the help of a small portable hand truck up a ramp and a bit of time. The in-ground plants would have to be dug up and transported into containers, or for the raised beds, the soil loaded into big commercial heavy duty bags or barrels, but it could be done with elbow grease. It might be the only way to transplant a garden if we find ourselves in desperate situations where we can’t stay where we are.

So, how could we do this?

In my garden here at Hillside Gardens in NE Georgia, I have collected sturdy black plastic tree planters that nurseries have given me or left behind, which are wonderful portable planters. They range from a gallon to 30 gallon or larger sizes for larger trees. In these planters I have been growing a wide range of plants all around my land, where there wouldn’t otherwise be space for a regular bed.

I might have mentioned that this property is steep. There is almost no flat land. I have terraced the worst hilly sections with rock beds and pathways between them. But along the tops of drop offs I have rows of these black plastic planters. Right now I have perennial herbs, such as stinging nettle, motherwort, chives, asparagus, and a bunch of lettuces and other annual vegetables.

I found some really pretty oval shaped trough style decorative heavy plastic containers 3’ by 18” wide by 18” deep. They are sculpted to look like terracotta decorative planters and they are practically indestructible. There are a double row of them along my front walk. In them I have growing sage, motherwort, chives, Greek oregano, Spearmint, parsley, and a bunch of other herbs and vegetables. I also plant flowers like zinnias in with the vegetables and it looks like a flower garden. Nobody would guess this is an herb garden which also grows food like Swiss chard in rainbow colors. Keep an eye open for appropriate heavy duty planters and containers even in people’s trash or at the closing of a nursery or other business. I love repurposing or recycling things  otherwise viewed as trash.

I have pots of various sizes – black plastic and various colored plastic pots – growing everywhere with violets and flowers for bee and pollinator attracting and feeding plants situated here and there wherever there is a bit of space I can add growing space. These also help pollinate my flowering vegetables and make the garden really pretty. This I consider camouflage because my neighbors appreciate the aesthetics of the property and don’t bug me about it being a vegetable garden. They probably don’t even know it is one.

I have a deck back of the house off my kitchen which is two stories above the ground level. On that along with the BBQ and some nice wicker chairs and a table, I have tastefully arranged little metal decorative shelves with rows of pots, and metal plant stands with a second plant shelf below the main one. Also I found some metal plant base supports which hold a plastic ‘saucer’ and rolling castors on which I have big pots of a moringa tree, lemon grass, and a host of perennial herbs and flowers, all in containers. This is nice because I can move the big plants around and let the wood under them dry out – saves deck wood from rotting.

I also have a table back there that serves not only as a plant propagation area but with a tarp over the table hanging down to form a shelter for my older cat Katie, which is her little haven. I store rain water there though I also have a faucet for water on the deck. That whole planted area could be whisked away in half an hour and go with us. Along with the medicinal and culinary plants I grow there.

When we first moved here from southern California, I brought a large contingency of plants from my garden. I used the trough containers on that deck to grow my first vegetable garden here in Ga., about 10 of them lined up around the deck. I grew a surprisingly large number of vegetables there including about 5 kinds of tomatoes, cucumbers, lettuces, Swiss chard and others. Later those troughs were moved to the front walk area, because by then we had space in the garden areas to grow in-ground in raised beds. But we had fresh salads and delicious foods coming out of that little container garden within about a month of moving here.

Meanwhile as I have established this garden over the past year since moving here in 2006, it now being 2022, I have learned a lot about all manner of growing environments. And I have tried them all. I love experimenting.

We have large heavy terra-cotta looking plastic planters purchased from the local nursery, where I have grown a host of different plants. I have grown elderberry bushes, and other larger perennial plants. They do quite well until they get root bound. I suppose if I needed to continue growing them portably I could get larger containers such as half barrels. They get heavy, but with the proper equipment like a Bobcat they too could be taken with us if the need arose.

I have used a number of easily acquired containers which would lend themselves well to being portable: 5 or 6 gallon plastic pails such as can be purchased at Home Depot, with a lid that then doubles as a ‘saucer’ under the bucket. All you need to do to a bucket is drill a bunch of ¼” holes in the bottom for drainage. And because they have a handy wire handle, they become very easy to move around wherever they fit or where there’s a bit of sunshine. They aren’t too heavy to lift either, not being that large. They can also be lined up in double rows and irrigated with a drip system for ease of maintenance. I have a friend who works for a donut shop, where they get various sized buckets filled with frosting and supplies, all food grade, nice white ones, from 1 to 6 gals. These are available for very little money because the company just throws them out otherwise. She cleans them up and sells them for about a dollar a piece, with lids. You might be able to find something similar from a bakery or other food processing businesses. I have purchased some from a soap making company that gets coconut oil in similar buckets.

Both the black plastic and white bucket containers can be made prettier by spraying with outdoor grade spray paint in terra cotta colors, or for fun, primary colors. This can be a fun project for kids. They can be made interesting by acrylic paint of flowers or other decorative elements as well. Be creative.

Milk Crates of heavy plastic, make nice portable containers. These are particularly helpful because you can stack them so the soil one is on top, and an empty one below to raise the level up higher. For those of us with bad backs, you don’t have to lean over so much to tend the plants, and they line up nicely in two rows. In fact there is an entire roof top farm (at least several years ago) using this technique. http://greencitygrowers.com/urban-farming-products/modular-milk-crate-farms/

They used a drip system on the rows and the little urban rooftop farm covered the entire roof of a downtown building. If you plan on using a roof top though, be sure to check the weight capacity of the roof because that amount of material can be heavy, especially when wet.

They lined the crates with a high quality weed cloth then put in the soil. They are 1’ deep so that’s a lot of growing depth for even carrots or other plants needing root space. Use the same high quality landscape fabric as the next paragraph – Dewitt Weed Barrier and Coats Outdoor thread. These liners can be sewed like a grow bag below.

Grow bags make great economical and sturdy container planters. There are a number of benefits to using them over ordinary planters. Here’s a great video on how best to use these bags, their advantages, and tips: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1ap0EE9xtrU

You can sew them yourself: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vq3aBghgGfo Since you make them yourself, here’s how to calculate any size you wish to make: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gJZ4XDdD9fE&t=0s

The internet is loaded with how to grow a bunch of kinds of vegetables in these Grow Bags so do some Google searches to be inspired and informed.

They use special landscape fabric, specifically: Dewitt brand Weed Barrier which is the thick kind – 12 year $15 as of the video in 2017. It’s very sturdy and is moisture permeable. Use “Coats Outdoor”– polyester UV protected thread, not cotton thread which is quite a bit thicker than ordinary thread. My suggestion is that you make a couple of handles for each bag out of the same material, using a strip of the landscape fabric, folding it over 2x and sewing it lengthwise, then cutting 8” lengths and sew them onto the rim and down the side a bit for sturdiness. This way they are much easier to move around. They work to grow any vegetable or most fruits, filling with a good planter mix amended with some compost for fertility.

Of course you can purchase ready made grow bags but that will cost more of course. If you aren’t handy with a sewing machine, check out the video above about tips and get some sources.

For a quick but possibly not as long lived method, using laundry baskets as containers can be a good interim  method and not expensive. Depending on what you can find quality wise for them will determine how long they last of course. But even old ones in a pinch can be handy. Line it with grow bag fabric and fill with soil. Make sure it’s a good strong basket. The flimsy ones won’t hold the soil properly. They usually have a solid bottom so you need to drill some ¼” holes in the bottom for drainage. They tend to be larger than buckets or crates so they will be heavier to move around. But in a pinch they work for a few years.

I’m sure your imagination can find different kinds of containers for a portable farm/garden, but I like the kind that fit together nicely space wise and are light weight for moving.

Now to soil. If you are moving an existing garden with your tenderly created perfect garden soil you’ll want to move that soil with you when you move to another location). If it’s during a rest time with nothing growing in the planters, they will be lighter if you don’t water them. But if they are in production, just move as-is. Just make sure the trailer or transportation can handle weight. Or you can gather up all your unused containers, set them aside, dig up your garden soil and get a few huge heavy duty bags trash companies rent out for construction site debris, and fill them with your soil. When you get to your new location, just fill the containers in an appropriate space, and plant.

One idea for temporary locations to keep your garden growing are vacant lots, or with the permission of the land owner, unused land. Even paved areas where a building was removed can be used since you don’t need access to the soil under the concrete.

If you are starting out without your own soil, you can purchase bulk organic garden soil from certain nursery supply companies and have them dump a load on your new property. It’s a lot cheaper then buying planter mix by the bag. And you get to see the quality, unlike the plastic bags at Home Depot or Lowe’s.

But if you are transporting established plants in containers, like perennial herbs or bushes in larger containers, you’ll probably need a Bobcat or some strong guys to move them onto your transportation. You can even put them on pallets for easier transport. The good news is that you are instantly in business once you arrive at your new place and set out your containers filled with soil.

To establish once you are at your new location, at first you will need to make sure you have water sources to keep your plants watered. City water, a well, a ram pump in a stream, collected rainwater, etc. all are water sources. Even diverting gray water from a house can be used. Not sewage though or water from a septic system.

Drip systems usually are at least somewhat portable and can be worked into the new location. I like the kind that is built off pvc pipes, attaching long narrow black plastic hoses with micro holes in them, with turn off valves for better control, and if large enough an installation, timers. The small diameter hoses are easy to wind their way around plants and can be easily adapted to any growing location. You just have to make sure the water going in is debris free or your hose will clog. A filter at the head of the hose prevents clogging.

If you’re moving a mid sized or small garden to a new location, or plan on putting your containers on a roof or outside patio, deck or other small area. Just make sure where you put your containers they aren’t going to be overgrown with weeds from a lawn. Make sure the patio, deck or roof can handle the extra weight and has a water source for irrigation, or hand watering from a watering can you. You can also use a wand watering system for smaller areas if the water is under pressure.

I have a stack of big turkey sized aluminum roasting pans which I set out on the deck or drive way when I know it is going to rain, collect rain water, and then from that water fill used clean kitty litter containers. I then fill my watering can and use that water especially for delicate seedlings or stressed plants. Otherwise I use city water, a hose, and a watering wand with various settings for misting to long distance streams of water from the faucet outside.

Then with a delivered pile of wood chips from your local landscaper, tree guys, or electric company, you can fill in between the containers to hold more moisture in the growing area. If you are doing a large number of beds, on a flat area, you’ll want to make sure any weeds or local plant populations can’t work their way up into your containers. Bermuda grass is famous for destroying growing areas but many native plants are survivors and will work to find sunlight especially through the excellent and fertile soil in a container. So, cover the area with two layers of cardboard, and at any place the cardboard comes together, overlap it 2”. This cardboard eventually decomposes but by then the underlying plant roots will have rotted and cease to be a problem. You can use the expensive landscape fabric but that can be expensive. It lasts a long time though. Many of my farmer friends use it in their annual crop spaces to cover walking paths or roadways for carts and equipment for its long lasting capabilities.

Another space could be over concrete pads or driveways, or unused streets, as long as you have a water source nearby.

At this point in your move, you have gone from location A to location B and have a working growing facility quickly.  

But there are other things you would want to take along with you. There are some very nice fairly portable green houses you can purchase. Here are some offered by Home Depot. Depending on your needs and the space available, and your budget, you can take one with you or purchase upon arrival at your new space. The advantage of having a greenhouse is having a place to propagate your seeds, and have a holding place for your tender perennials if you can’t bring them into your living quarters.

Sometimes you’ll need some kind of heating in it to not kill your plants. Space heaters eat up electricity, but you can make your own rocket mass heater which runs on twigs and small sticks, costing only the price of some gathering. Portable heavy duty rocket mass heater: This is a small very portable heater which burns on a few sticks and can heat a green house. The mass can be supplied with some refractory bricks build up around the body. https://www.pinterest.com/pin/766878642806220923/?mt=login

Here’s a larger version: https://www.instagram.com/p/BMDoOYOD_EU/?inf_contact_key=59cfb1e54b6d64fe880c0c4d512df30b3601317d6b89ba0a330af6244fe7cc2f

Some considerations about the portable farm aspect of this system:

  1. for a large scale plan to bring enough growing space to feed a family, remember you need enough space at the location to receive your containers, and water sources appropriate to your planting needs.
  2. bringing plants to a new location, especially perennials, you need to check the growing zone of the new location and be sure the plants you are taking are compatible to their new location.
  3. the trailer must protect your plants from rapid change of weather, the wind of travel, and be secure so you don’t loose containers or soil from traveling.
  4. have a budget for the transportation, such as rental of an appropriate trailer or moving vehicle and make sure they can handle the weight.
  5. for smaller transportation of plants, containers, soil, and possibly a little greenhouse, a little box trailer and trailer hitch might be necessary for your car or pickup truck.
  6. You’ll want to remember to bring your favorite garden tools, hoses, seed collections, reference library, and your wellies (garden boots). J
  7. If you think you might need to do such a move at a moment’s notice, it would be a good idea to work out ahead of time the steps you’ll need to do this move and start collecting what you need, make your grow bags if that’s in the plan, and have it ready so you can jump into it at a moment’s notice, or at least have the plan ready for when you decide to move on it.

Good luck with your portable farm or garden. I’d love to hear how you plan on applying this idea to your life.


Diann Dirks – Certified Permaculture Designer, organic gardener, consultant, educator, writer and researcher.

Posted in Connection between nature and people, Emergency Preparedness, Gardening, Mobility, Permaculture, Preparedness, Recycle, repurpose, reuse, Self-Sustainability, The future, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Connection Between People and Earth 3-5-22

The more I study nature, herbalism, Permaculture, and the relationship between the earth and the body, and ultimately between us in our ‘earth suits’ (i.e. our bodies), the more I realize how intimate that connection is.

For example did you know that 75-85% of our immune systems reside in the health of the ‘micro biome’ (the microbes which line the digestive tract from mouth to anus), and that there is a direct relationship between the gut and the health of the brain? Depression, negative emotions, thoughts, are directly affected when the gut degrades and the good microbes in the gut are harmed or eliminated thru antibiotics, toxins, chemicals, and other harmful substances. And here’s an amazing fact, health soil contains the exact same microbes as healthy gut microbes, the same exact ones.

When you see children eating dirt, most mothers almost have a heart attack because they think their kids are going to die or get sick doing that. But in fact, it’s a natural urge to improve our gut health by directly intaking those microbes directly from the soil.

When you eat organically grown vegetables that aren’t washed with chlorine to kill off those supposedly bad germs, which in fact are the very things our immune system needs to stay healthy, you are recharging your micro biome and immune system. Those ‘baby carrots’ in the grocery store are in fact regular carrots pared down to small sized then soaked in chlorinated water. You think you are giving your kids good stuff when in fact chlorine kills their gut microbes. You’d be better off growing your carrots yourself in organic (non-chemical) soil, and not even washing them beyond just a quick rinse with clear water. Most of the vegetables in the grocery store have been washed to kill the ‘germs’.

I have been asked ‘What’s the big deal about organic food?’. That is the big deal. You need constant recharging of your micro-biome to offset all the environmental toxins and in the food loss of those beneficial microbes. Meat fed in industrial type feeder lots are fed GMO corn and other grains which kill off the micro biome. Milk products which aren’t cultured are fed those gmo food sources unless they are officially ‘organic’ in the grocery stores, or unless you grow it yourself or get it from thoughtful ethical local farmers who don’t use chemicals or feed their livestock commercial feed that are gmo.

One of the big reasons I have promoted people growing their own food in chemical free soil, even if only a percentage of it, is because when you grow those greens, carrots, beets, potatoes, tomatoes, and other home grown foods, and just rinse, not ‘sanitize’ them, you are constantly recharging your immune system and the health of your entire body with every bite.

Because there are so many things that knock out those good microbes in our body we need to recharge them on a regular basis. There are literally thousands of kinds of these microbes so just concentrating on one kind or another only helps somewhat. But there has to be a balance and multiple kinds. When offered as a supplement these are called ‘probiotics’ meaning helping (pro) life forms – microbes (biotics). You can purchase them in pill form and that is helpful. But if they have been sitting in a store too long likely you have lost a lot of them through storage.

The best way to keep live beneficial microbes recharging the gut and other parts of the body which require them, is to eat them in your organic food. But there are some great other sources which I particularly find delicious and helpful. I love Kombucha Tea. You can ferment this yourself (here’s a good site to make it yourself and save a lot of money – https://food52.com/blog/13548-my-adventures-in-brewing-kombucha-how-you-can-do-it-too). I do recommend you take it easy at first though because kombucha tea clears out the liver and loosens up toxins in the body. You can go too fast and drink too much which the liver can’t process fast enough. This can lead to what is called a healing crisis – feels like the flu. Don’t panic just step back in how much you are taking. I tell people to start with one oz. a day, then after 3 days, add another oz. at another time of day till you build up to 4oz. 4x a day, no more than that. And because you are detoxing, drink a LOT of pure water.

There are some other great sources of these beneficial probiotics. Water Kefir actually has more volume of probiotics than kombucha tea though not as many detoxing benefits or healing qualities. The good news is you can drink up to 2 liters a day without a healing crisis. And it’s a delightfully refreshing beverage – great in the summer and better than soda for kids and adults. You can also flavor it with fruit, flavorful herbs like mint, and it is a fast ferment – only 12 to 24 hours instead of 7 days like kombucha tea.

Eating fermented foods is especially beneficial because of their large populations of probiotics but also prebiotics. Probiotics eat various kinds of fiber as their food called prebiotics because without food they can’t do their jobs. So eating fiber filled vegetables and fruits like cabbage, carrots, apples, etc. are their happy foods. Fermented foods like sauerkraut, Kim chi, pickled beets to name a few that super charge the gut and are delicious. This is a whole area of nutrition to be explored. Sandor Katz has written a great book on the subject: Wild Fermentation –  https://www.amazon.com/Wild-Fermentation-Flavor-Nutrition-Live-Culture/dp/1931498237 This is such a great book for everything fermented, and for those great cooks or just people interested in health, it’s a journey.

When in the garden the soil requires live microbes, lots of fiber, moisture, nutrients, and oxygen, just like our guts do. The parallels are amazing in their similarity. So, when we garden to grow our own good organic foods, we need to treat the soil as well as we do our guts, and provide it with fresh organic matter, food for the earth worms that are little microbe factories, by giving them sand and other grit for their gizzards so they can break down the cellulose of the roots as they work their way thru the soil, and minerals from tree leaves, some ash from the fireplace in moderation, and moisture. The microbes in the soil are exactly the same ones in our healthy guts. Doesn’t that tell you how closely our bodies and the earth are aligned? We depend on nature and nature depends on us. When we treat it with dignity, it supports us. When we fill it with poisons and toxins, kill off the microbes, mess with the weather, destroy the worm and beneficial insect populations, and force our will on the land, it’s like what we are doing to our gut feeding it processed chemical laden food, bypassing the immune system with an over use of chemical medicines from the lab, and fail to see the relationships with our physical selves and nature.

The relationship between the earth and our ‘earth suits’ goes beyond the microbes in the soil.  The energy in the earth is a critical part of our health. Lightening hits the earth thousands of times a minute all around the globe leaving loose electrons by the trillions which are available to any life form connecting directly with it. Both the earth and our bodies are conductive, which means they flow energy through them, like a copper wire. When you touch the earth, if it isn’t insulated by shoes or a big building or the tires on your car, or other electrically insulated surfaces, you are getting a very helpful dose of those free electrons.

Have you heard of ‘free radicals’? This is the big buzz in the health industry because an atom which has had one of its electrons bumped off or pushed off through radiation, cell towers, chemical toxins or many other means act like bandits to nearby atoms. You know that there magnetic pulling and pushing of substances based on their ‘charge’ i.e. negative or positive charges. An electron is a negative charged particle. It is drawn to the center of the atom (the proton) like a magnet to metal which carries a positive charge. The atom is held together by these affinities of negative to positive charges. When an atom has had one of these electrons ripped off, suddenly that atom is ‘hungry’ i.e. it has an empty ‘urge’ which needs to be filled up with a replacement electron.

When an atom with one of these empty spots in its balance of negative and positive charges touches against another atom, it can rob that atom of one of its charged electrons. Now you have a passing on of unbalanced charges. Atoms in an organic system of a body, when a lot of those atoms are unbalanced, disrupts the cellular functions of all those cells made of atoms and molecules because they all operate by communicating to each other and because they get their orders in function by the flow of energy through systems which are finely tuned. You know what happens when there is a short in a wall socket attached to a TV or other appliance, it cuts off or runs poorly. Exactly the same thing happens in a cell.

In the wake of a lot of radiation (like cell towers, 5G phones, microwave ovens or the microwaves in a smart meter at your house connection to electricity), bodies get tons of free radicals as the electrons get ripped out of the atoms in the cells. This causes the bodies to run very inefficiently like a car running on 2 cylinders instead of 8. It has a tough time making energy (fatigue), fixing damaged cells, using food, having brain activity (as in brain fog), or not healing properly. When enough of those cells are damaged or actually mutate due to too much damage, over time, the body ‘solves’ the problem by setting up filters in the blood and lymph system to get rid of the toxins from cells that can’t clean properly or don’t work well. These filters are CANCER TUMORS. They grow because the body has to deal with more mutation, damage, and build up of toxins than it can handle.

Ever wonder why there is such an epidemic of cancer? It doesn’t just manifest as cancer, it can manifest as other unworking systems like the pancreas, causing diabetes, or muscles and nerves causing auto-immune diseases and Multiple Sclerosis, or other diseases in various organs like the liver, spleen, brain, etc. Any organ or system that has a build up of these free radicals and the mutation they cause becomes diseased in some form, or just doesn’t work to do their jobs. Thus we find people age or are sick all the time, or can’t fight off virus or bacteria coming along in life.

The kinds of body diseases caused by this free radical build up and concurrent damage – which is caused ‘oxidative stress’ in the medical world, are just about everything we see in the way of disease one way or another. This includes arthritis, auto-immune, cancer, diabetes, muscle and skeletal problems, brain diseases like dementia and Alzheimer’s, all due to the damage brought on by the unbalance of the electrons in atoms which interact with the systems in the body which can’t work properly or break down. So, what’s the solution?

We must repair those atoms by providing them with free electrons so they can receive communication from other cells and directional organs in the body like the Pineal gland and various other brain and glandular ‘bosses’.

You may have heard of ‘antioxidant’ vitamins like Vit. C, E, various supplements and foods which are healthy to the body. They are healthy because they provide the missing electrons so the body’s functions repair the damages. When there are too many stressors coming from chemicals, radiation, stress, and other free radical makers, the body gets overwhelmed and becomes diseased. Staying away from genetically altered (GMO) foods and eating only organically grown foods, drinking water purified of toxins through filtration or from clean sources, filtering out the toxins from the air we breathe with ozone and ionizing air purifiers or living in clean air areas, staying away from toxic sources that go into the body like aluminum in vaccines, many pharmaceuticals which cause oxidative stress, and keeping our hands out of chemicals is the starting point.

But let’s face it, we live in a toxic world. So constantly putting attention on keeping only the good stuff going in and keeping the bad stuff out is the first defense. But if we walk into a store we are breathing, or driving in traffic, any of all the things modern life requires of us, we are getting assaulted by toxins, and radiation from wifi, cell towers, cell phones and other energetic disrupters, it’s unavoidable. So we need to put attention on constantly detoxifying the body and protecting ourselves from the damage from radiations.

Eating organic high fiber food or taking diatomaceous earth or bentonite clay every day grabs on to the toxins in our food chain, and whisks them out in the urine and feces. Taking detox baths a few times a week letting the skin push out toxins in sweat, or using a sauna or even better an IR sauna (Infrared particularly as it reaches in deep in the body and loosens up the toxins to be sweated out, better than just heat) both mechanically allow the body to work more efficiently. Doing things to help the lymphatic system do its job of picking up the toxins in every cell in the body and whisking it out through channels (not vessels like the blood system) to little processors at catch points in the body, and neutralizing or capturing and bonding those toxins then pushing them into the blood stream to be filtered through the kidneys and liver to be removed. Certain things you can easily do to help the lymphatic system do this are important to removing those free radical making toxins.

The lymphatic system being a liquid moving through channels in the body’s tissues are not pumped like blood with the heart. Instead along those channels are little valves which only go one direction. Muscle activity squeezes the liquid called ‘lymph’ along the channels and forces it through the valves up to little organs of the lymph system called nodes and glands. If you don’t move the body and get those muscles working, the toxins in the lymph and the cells which are trying to get rid of their junk get backed up and stagnate. Then harmful bacteria in the system grow and you get sick. So get moving.

One of my favorite ways to really get the lymphatic system working and unstagnated (which btw is a large part of the immune system not covered by the gut micro biome) is to bounce. Just bounce on the balls of your feet a minute or so throughout the body, or if you have access to a ‘rebounder’ (a little mini trampoline which you don’t jump on, just bounce). This forces the muscles to contract with each bounce and move the lymph liquid through the system, cleaning out every cell in the body. But really, any exercise like walking, swimming, tai chi, or physical activity does this too. But we don’t all have time to go to the gym or have a safe place to walk so the rebounder takes up little room, is portable, and can be stood up out of the way in a closet or hallway to be used several times a day.

I do a lot of research on the immune system, and especially cancer and related illnesses. Early on I realized two things that are of immense value in staying healthy related to daily use of bouncing and detoxing. Regular exercise and drinking lots of pure water, especially if it has a little lemon juice in it which helps to alkanizing the water helps flush out the toxins and help the kidneys and intestines rid the body of toxins and debris. Acid conditions in the body are responsible for a lot of diseases. Cancer can’t exist in a body that is above pH 6 and only grows when the body’s pH is between 4.5 and 5 – i.e. acidic.

So keeping the lymphatic system moving along, regular detoxing, grounding by connecting directly with the earth for those free electrons, eating foods high in antioxidants, supplementing vitamins such as Vit. C, E, and others, drinking lots of pure water, and keeping from intaking the toxic foods and radiations are critical for the body’s health.

The earth helps in every way. That relationship between the energy of the earth, our natural physical body’s energy flows and communications, the water and the foods the earth give us are in every way how we maintain life.

The natural world is so intrinsically intertwined with how our bodies work in ways we rarely consider, further proof of that intimate connection. Some of those ways the ancient people of the world knew about were our relationship to the sun, atmospheric pressure and phases, the tides, the light from the starts, gravity, the wind and the seasons.

When astronauts spend a good deal of time away from the planet, unless they are given gravity artificially, their muscles deteriorate to the point when returning home, they loose strength and other bodily functions are lessened. It takes them time and a lot of exercise and weight training to return to their former selves.

The tides and the moon’s influence on the gravity and cycles of the planet are felt though usually we don’t notice them. But if you ask any ER doctor about the mental changes that occur around the full moon, how people tend to get a little ‘loony’, i.e. luna meaning the moon, you will know why sometimes we feel strange emotions or urges around certain periods of the moon phases. This can influence our mental well being. It also influences the female cycles like the tide. “Age-old parallels between the menstrual cycle and the phases of the moon have likely also led to some females referring to their periods as “moon cycles” to this day.” *

Atmospheric pressure influences some people’s energy more than others. The coming of a storm or high moisture content affects people’s joints – called rheumatism. Low pressure can set off headaches and other symptoms in some people who are especially sensitive to it. A sunny high pressure day tends to make people energetic and active. We don’t think of this as an intrinsic relationship with the earth, but when old Uncle Tyrus says ‘a storm’s coming, my knee is bothering me again’ you can see the effects rendered.

Sunlight sets off in the skin the creation of Vitamin D – but it’s really a hormone which influences a host of biological reactions and processes. Vitamin D regulates how much calcium is deposited in the bones. In fact just the elimination of the sun’s rays on the skin causes many problems. Rickets is a disease usually seen in children when their bones become weak. “Getting enough, but not too much, vitamin D is needed to keep your body functioning well. Vitamin D helps with strong bones and may help prevent some cancers. Symptoms of vitamin D deficiency can include muscle weakness, pain, fatigue and depression. To get enough D, look to certain foods, supplements, and carefully planned sunlight.” ** A lack of Vitamin D affects blood calcium, the parathyroid gland, affecting energy, pain, and mood. Lack of it is linked to formation of cancer, Alzheimer’s disease, depression, schizophrenia, pregnancy, auto-immunity, the lungs, diabetes, obesity, and shorter life spans. *** Getting outside in the sun, without sun screen, for periods of time but not enough to burn your skin, is needed as UVB rays are required for the body to produce Vit. D from cholesterol in your body. Excessive sun exposure can also cause problems, but you do need the sun to touch your skin. Glass screens out the UVB so it doesn’t work to sit in a sunny window. You can also get Vit. D from some foods like fish oil, red meat and eggs. Be particularly interested in Vit. D3 as that’s the one for health. But sun related gives you all of the kinds. You can take dietary supplements too.

But that relationship between our sun and our bodies is noticeable in the creation of this hormone/vitamin so critical to so many of our functions. ****

Starlight plays another role in our health and lives. “Starlight is the frequency of stillness. And stillness is the frequency of transmutation.”

We are seeing a great deal of research emerging in the study of quantum physics. Quantum physics defies logic in some ways, underlying is the concept of how energy is and how it works. Trying to quantify energy in the development of quantum theory in 1900 a theory was developed by a scientist Max Planck which implied that the very existence of a basic particle of energy versus it being a wave led to a great deal of experimentation. Some interesting phenomena emerged later in which there seemed to be some kind of underlying interaction and connection with and effects occurring across space and time which physics didn’t explain. Some say it is fundamentally a spiritual connection in trying to understand the laws of nature. *****

Often the energies of frequencies of energy transmit between life forms, in ways that scientists and physicists haven’t yet figured out. But on a spiritual level it seems that by observation certain affects related to consciousness (spiritual) affects certain processes which affect life forms and which relate to how the universe is built and how life forms exist and function. Vitamin D formation seems to be one of those affects.

“Consciousness is raised to the frequency of starlight and its many emanations, creating miraculous transformations in mental, emotional, physical and spiritual wellbeing. 

Without a doubt, healing with starlight is a profoundly mysterious and revolutionary quantum approach to health and empowerment!”

Starlight is being used by some as a healing method related to calmness, stillness, and the relationship between the spirit and the body. Further thought seems to indicate that we don’t know all there is to know about the relationship between these life forms we call ‘earth suits’ and the grater cosmos. But some things can be used to help us do better.

Depending on where we live on this earth, we are enmeshed in seasons related to the tilt of the planet and the interaction to the moon, as well as how far we are from the equator or the poles. In any case, our bodies seem to adopt to those conditions over time. Peoples living far into the northern regions adjust to the lack of sunlight and the ever presence of it depending on winter or summer. People living at the equator being exposed to stronger energy of sunlight having less atmosphere to protect them than by the poles, have developed different types of hair to insulate them from that energy of the sun, and developed skin pigmentation likewise. People midway who need the sun have eliminated the pigment so more sunlight penetrates to make Vit. D, and hair likewise lighter and non-insulating or not as kinked to allow more sunlight to penetrate.

In cold weather more fat is built up in the warm weather to burn in the cold, and the energy from the fat stored, allows for greater energy needed to grow food, hunt for meat, and build things. These things are genetically manifest through seasons. Yet people living where there are no basic seasons have different energy cycles. There is always that underlying relationship.

I have a theory that there has grown a relationship of survival built up over a very long time between the energy, the biological and geological forms of this planet, which are linked in people and animals. It is a symbiotic relationship. We are part of nature and we depend on the wisdom of the planet’s systems to survive. There are systems of nature we are almost unaware of as a people between the life forms here and our survival. For example there is a vast network of fungi (mushrooms are the fruiting bodies of this network) which exists from the surface of the soil down into much lower levels which transport nutrients between the microbes and plants, also carrying information like a huge internet. The systems of various kinds of life forms benefit from this network in the support of the trees and plants which are interconnected. The trees actually develop rain and monitor and effect weather systems bringing in rain which create the systems of rivers and underground water affecting all life forms. The fungi breaks down the dead plant life like trees on down to compost, releasing the nutrients for other life forms, without which we wouldn’t have soil, or clean stretches of earth where new plant life can grow. Birds carry valuable nutrients like phosphorous to the trees from far away. The insects pollinate the plant life which multiple animal forms (including humans) depend on for food.

The interrelationship of these parts of the puzzle of life on earth works together in a dance so old breaking it down becomes a lifelong study. However, we can benefit from knowing to respect the things we see at work, and not to jump to conclusions about whether something is ‘good or bad’ in an environment.

I was teaching a neighbor years ago about growing a garden in her backyard. One day she came across the street to tell me she had a problem and she was scared. She found worms and thought they were bad, so she was killing them in her little garden plot. She didn’t understand these relationships. When I explained to her that worms were her friends, that they produced the holes in the earth to let the water down to the roots of her plants and air needed for their growth. That without worms the soil could become so compacted the roots couldn’t grow thru to grow. I taught her to love and respect the ants and the bugs in the ground, like the pill bugs which pull heavy metals out of the soil which are toxic in the food we grow. That the worms grow beneficial microbes in their long bodies which then break down the unusable minerals into the soil so roots can absorb them.

We have become so used to the concept brought over from Europe early on in our history, that land was something that we owned, that we must conquer nature to survive, and any destruction to that end was necessary, without understanding the places in nature those elements being destroyed play in survival. Without understanding we have killed off millions of acres of key forest, polluted our soil and water, and eroded the top soil so badly that New Orleans which at one time was right on the Gulf of Mexico is now almost 70 miles inland, with the topsoil of the Midwest forming the delta land there.

It’s time we understood that understanding and respect of our natural resources including trees, wild life, water sources, air, and all that is part of the natural environment needs to be viewed as part of us and we part of it. If we consider things that way, and work with nature rather than wantonly destroy it we can have growth of the human population wisely, and keep the planet from becoming a billiard ball unable to support any life.

Our bodies are the evidence we need to understand that intimate relationship. Using the resources of the planet and respecting the human’s place in nature, we can get smart and have this planet thriving for life in another thousand years. Without intelligence and good planning it can go either way. We are at a crossroads in that journey. Consider all this next time your city decides to level the forest for more subdivisions or use the local river for a toxic dump. You or your grand children will be drinking that water and will need those trees to make the rain to keep it flowing.

Diann Dirks, 3-5-22 Certified Permaculture Designer, consultant, author, artist, historian



* https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/menstrual-cycles-and-lunar-cycles-is-there-a-lin

** https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/articles/15050-vitamin-d–vitamin-d-deficiency

*** https://www.pharmacytimes.com/view/vitamin-d-is-the-new-hormone

**** https://www.nhs.uk/live-well/healthy-body/how-to-get-vitamin-d-from-sunlight/

***** https://whatis.techtarget.com/definition/quantum-theory

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Garden biodiversity and seed swapping. 3-1-22

Diann Dirks

I don’t know about you, but I’m a seed-aholic. I can never have enough kinds of seeds and every time I get a seed catalog I leave drool lines on it like a snail’s path. I don’t buy everything because I’m not a millionaire, but I save my heirloom seeds from the garden, and trade or swap with them so this becomes such a fun hobby. Seeds swaps are a great way to build community too because if we save our seeds there is no way we have garden room for using all of them. So sharing is a way to ensure our society at large maintains a greater bio-diversity. One cabbage plant can produce thousands of seeds! So, when we are careful to grow only heirloom, heritage, open pollinating varieties, which breed true every year, unlike hybrids that don’t, we can grow our diversity of available vegetables, herbs, etc. This to me is better than a savings account in the bank, it’s endless survival!

So, knowing which are the good seed companies that sell ethical, well managed seed varieties, never GMO, and we focus on these kinds of seeds, we are in our own way preserving the bio-diversity of the good growing plants. Did you know that we have lost 90% of the varieties we used to grow on this planet? Thank the big agricultural conglomerates who have grabbed up little seed companies and replaced their rich variety of little varities – not the kind they want to promote to the farmers who they work to do mono-cropping for profit, mostly GMO. So, the numbers of seed companies that are good for variety are dwindling. Bakers Creek Heirloom Seed Co. is one of my favorite but there are many. I’ll give you a list below of those you can trust.

When the order comes in from the seed purchases, or we come back from a big seed swap in our area, it’s time to SHARE. I don’t try to grow a whole bed of one thing these days. Even though I have 100 beds, only 40 of them are for annuals, the others growing perennials, it’s still never enough to grow everything I want to produce. So, I set into the beds of the usual like tomatoes, and leave room for a little growing of something new. You have to remember to mark them well with labels which don’t get lost during the season, and keep some records of what you planted where and how they produce in your micro-climated area. Not all seeds do well in all locations or soil conditions. Some will thrive, some never germinate, some only do so but poorly. Save the ones that work in your space. Also, not everyone likes the same vegetables, so grow what you will eat.

When your seeds do come in from your order, gather them and set up a meeting with a couple of friends who do the same, then share them. I have little plastic ziplock kinds of seed bags which hold just enough seeds for trading. A Sharpie pen works to label them, or writing on a strip of masking tape helps to keep them identified. Never leave out that step, and give enough information from the seed packets to make planting correct for that variety.

Sharing that way everyone gets bio-diversity and a chance to try a lot of different plants. Some of the groups I belong to have seed swaps in spring and fall, so this is a perfect time to grow diversity in the garden and see what will do well for your land.

Then it’s time to make seed tapes.

A seed tape is a way to lay out seeds on paper (we used toilet paper) affixed with a little flour water to organically glue them. Just one drop of flour water of the right consistency will hold one seed. Not too wet, not too dry, experiment to get that right so it sticks but doesn’t drown. Many of the seeds in a garden are tiny and hard to separate to plant. So, if you make a long strip of folded toilet paper and using the flour water, putting a drop every so often distance wise according to the seed packet, drop one seed in each place, let it dry, then roll up the strip and staple a label to it with information.

The teacher that taught our group of homesteaders how to do this started by cutting a 2” strip of poster board and marking it every 2” so we could space the seeds correctly. When you read the back of a seed packet it will tell you how far apart to plant the seeds, and she just used carrots. But some will be closer, some further away, just gauge what it should be, laying the measuring strip against the length of folded toilet paper and setting them appropriately gives you a pretty good and fast way to set them up. Then lay the folded strip with it’s little label out on a table and let them dry overnight. The next day, roll them up so the seeds are held secure. They will be good for months.

One good aspect of this process is it can be done inside on a table or watching TV in the cold or rainy weather when you can’t do outside work. For those of us who really miss the garden when it’s snowing or blowing, this is satisfying a certain urge. 😉

It helps to organize your seed packets before taping so you avoid repetitions of the same kinds of seeds, or wish to only grow more current seed dates.

When a variety has been thus taped out, set the used seed packet in a separate pile so you don’t mistakenly make 5 tapes of the same seed packet. Or of the same variety but a different year’s seeds, easier to keep organized.

The next day or after several hours of drying, time to roll them up. I just start at one end of the tape and gently roll them up. I don’t make them longer than 2 ½ feet long so this isn’t hard to do. Sometimes when I only have a few of one kind of seed, I only make the tape long enough to adjust to the number of seeds.

I don’t bother to seed tape larger seeds like pumpkin or bean seeds as they are best direct seeded and tend to fall off the tape. The largest seed I did this with was beet or chard seeds. Bigger didn’t work well. So keep those seed varieties in a ‘to be planted direct in the soil’ pile for later sowing.

Once the tapes are rolled up, sort them by season (cold weather, hot weather) then by variety. This last batch I had about 15 cool weather lettuces, 5 kinds of cabbage family like bok choy, radishes, etc. which each broad kind went in a little paper bag ready to plant. I used a bit of masking tape to hold the rolled tape from unwinding. Masking tape doesn’t tear the paper and is easier to unstuck and causes no damage to the toilet paper as opposed to clear Scotch tape. We tried using little rubber bands but they un-lodged the seeds from the paper and wasted our work. Just about an inch of tape will do.

Once it’s time to get your seeds in the ground, you can then dig your tiny little trench in the soil, just lay out the tape, cover with a bit of soil (see instructions on the seed packet for depth of planting), water it well, and label it, you then get a nice row of well placed seeds, not wasting the seeds or putting them too deep in where they can’t germinate. You can also tear off a section of strip if you don’t want to grow by row or don’t want it that long, and do a grid pattern instead.  I loved this idea.

Another advantage of the seed tape technique is you can tape and roll a few varieties at a time or a mass project. Good way to use a few minutes of time between rushing around. They tend to accumulate enough that by planting time you have done a great deal of work without even noticing it. Just keep them organized.

We’re trying this method this year as a way to have more control over the use of seeds, not wasting them, and not putting them too deep. If you keep the beds moist, they germinate in the toilet paper which is so soft the seeds can poke thru the fibers, establish, and grow. The paper then decomposes in the bed and adds to the organic matter without ever having to come out. Isn’t that cool?

Also if you have planned your beds, on a grid paper, you can just make tapes which fit into your plan and not waste tapes thus seeds. If you’re really organized you can ready your entire garden and its seeds before it even turns to warm weather. BTW you can also use tapes in flats if you like to pre-germinate your seeds to have plants ready to put into the garden once the soil is prepared and warm enough.

I suppose there are other methods of making the seed tapes than this one but it’s what I know how to do so it’s a place to start.

Another use of this method is to make a short tape, moisten it and put it in a zip lock sandwich bag, to test the germination rate of older seeds. If they do well, you know to make longer tapes. If they never germinate or do so poorly, don’t bother to make tapes of them, or designate valuable garden space for dud seeds. This makes for more efficient use of your beds.

When planning to seed save your last year’s plants, remember to mark the plants you wish to save the seeds from while in the garden so when they do bolt and seed out, you know which ones are the ones you wish to save. Otherwise many of the same family of plants’ seeds look exactly right. This is particularly true of the brassicus (cabbage) family of seeding plants and lettuces.

Good luck with your seed. Happy Gardening. Be generous with your heirloom seeds and keep our biodiversity alive. It’s going to be the little gardener who does this much more than the agricultural industry. We need our biodiversity.

I had posted a url for non-Monsanto seeds posted which turns out isn’t available anymore. So, here is another site which lists safe non-Monsanto seed companies to check out: https://insteading.com/blog/seed-companies/ It also goes into the control of seeds by monsanto which explains the current situation. Sorry for the wrong post before.

Here is a list of the seed companies which sell heirloom non-Monsanto company seeds:

Baker Creek Heirloom Seed Co.

Seed Savers Exchange

Johnny’s Select Seeds

Burpees Seeds

Southern Exposure Seeds Exchange

See below for a larger list of reputable seed companies that sell non-GMO, non-Monsanto, non-hybrid seeds, and have a large variety of organically grown heirloom, heritage, and open-pollinated varieties.

There are some duplications here. It’s a long list. The blow list is not a complete list but it’s fairly thorough.

Always check to see if the seed company you are purchasing seeds from is not one of the Monsanto companies of seed companies. They have taken over a lot of smaller companies, changed the names or incorporated them, inserting gmos. Also always check to see if the variety you are purchasing is not a hybrid variety which will not breed true after the first generation. Check for Monsanto companies here: http://planet.infowars.com/uncategorized/seed-companies-owned-by-monsanto

Heirloom Seed Companies

FoundrootAlaska, USA.
Foundroot sells 100% open-pollinated seeds. They specialize in rare heirloom and expertly bred seeds for challenging climates.
Contact: 907-414-3077 and Email: foundrootseeds@gmail.com

Terroir Seeds LLC. Home of Underwood Gardens Arizona, USA.
A family owned independent heirloom seed company that offers the finest untreated, non-GMO heirloom vegetable, herbs and flowers seeds for home gardeners and small growers.
Contact: Phone/Fax 888-878-5247

Native Seeds / SEARCH shop Arizona, USA.
They are a non-profit conservation organization based in Tucson, Arizona. Since 1983, they have become a major regional seed bank and a leader in the heirloom seed movement.
Contact: 520-622-0830 and Email: web@nativeseeds.org

The Natural Gardening Company California, USA.
They offer organically produced seeds and plants that promote the long-term health and preservations of our natural resources.
Contact: 707-766-9303 and Email: info@naturalgardening.com

Mountain Valley GrowersCalifornia, USA.
It is a USDA Certified organic company that offers organic herbs and vegetable plants.
Contact: 559-338-2775

Laurel’s Heirloom Tomato PlantsCalifornia, USA.
They offer 100 luscious varieties of strictly organically grown heirloom tomato plants.
Contact: 310 534 8611

Renee’s GardenCalifornia, USA.
The owner, Renee Shepherd, offers heirloom certified organic seeds.
Contact: Phone: 1-888-880-7228 and Email: customerservice@reneesgarden.com

The Kusa Seed Society California, USA.
Their mission is to increase humanity’s knowledge and understanding about seed crops.
Contact them via Email: info@ancientcerealgrains.org

Petaluma Seed Bank California, USA.
Housed in and old bank building, this seed bank offers only pure, natural and non-GMO seeds!
Phone: (707) 773-1336 Email: seedbank@rareseeds.com

My Heirloom Seeds California, USA.
They sell a “survival kit” with a large number of heirloom seeds. “We carry 100% non-GMO Heirloom seeds, that are not genetically modified, nonhybrid and open pollinated.” They have signed the safe seed pledge.
Contact: (310) 773-5936

Bountiful Gardens California, USA.
They sell untreated, open-pollinated, non-GMO seed of heirloom quality for vegetables, herbs, flowers, grains, green manures, compost and carbon crops.
Contact: (707) 459-6410 and Email: bountiful@sonic.net

GrowOrganic.comCalifornia, USA.
They offer all organic and non-GMO seeds. They also have organic fertilizer, organic weed and pest control.
Contact: 530-272-4769 and Email: helpdesk@groworganic.com

Kitazawa Seed Co. California, USA.
They are the oldest seed company in America specializing in Asian seeds. All of their seeds are non-GMO and many open pollinated varieties.
Contact: (510) 595-1188 and Email: seeds@kitazawaseed.com

I love this company. It’s the best source of oriental varieties that I have ever seen.

Diaspora Seeds California, USA.
A small family-run seed business in rural Anderson Valley. Many of the seeds they offer are heirloom seeds; resilient, productive and delicious offerings from many different cultures; geographies and time.
You can contact them through their online form.

Farm Direct Organic Seed (Hobbs Family Farm) Colorado, USA.
They grow certified organic garlic, open-pollinated seeds, fresh vegetables and much more.
Contact: 719-250-9835 and Email: info@farmdirectseed.com

Botanical Interests Colorado, USA.
All of their seeds are GMO-Free, and they do not buy or sell genetically engineered seeds or plants. Over 500 varieties to choose from.
Contact: 877-821-4340

BBB Seed Colorado, USA.
A small, family owned company committed to providing safe, healthy, untreated, non-genetically engineered heirloom vegetable seed to its customers and promoting safe and sustainable agriculture. See their line of open-pollinated heirloom vegetable seeds and organic heirloom vegetable seeds, as well as a wide variety of wildflower & grass mixes.
Contact: 303-530-1222

Select Seeds Connecticut, USA.
They offer a wide range of unique, high- quality flower seeds and plants.
Contact: 1-800-684-0395

New England Seed Company Connecticut, USA.
The company offers chemical-free seed products, they sell vegetable, flower, herb and organic bulk seed.
Contact: 800-825-5477 and Email: sales@neseed.com

Mary’s Heirloom Seeds Florida, USA.
Mary’s currently offers over 400 varieties of Heirloom, open-pollinated, non-GMO and non-hybrid, non-patented, untreated and organic seeds. Mary has signed the Safe Seed pledge. Most seed orders placed Monday-Thursday are shipped within 48 hours, (except for holidays)
Contact: (760)-870-4555 and Email: mary@marysheirloomseeds.com

Crispy Farms Florida, USA.
They sell homegrown meat, dairy produce, pantry items and non-GMO plants and seeds.
Contact them through the online form on their website or Email: crispyfarms@earthlink.net

Eden Organic Nursery Service Inc. Florida, USA.
They offer organic and hybrid seeds for vegetables, tobacco seeds, medical and healing plants and many more.
Contact:(954) 382-8281

Grower Jim’s Plants and Produce Florida, USA.
They are a small sustainable farm selling fresh produce, plants and seeds. Their seeds are hand-picked, open-pollinated, non-hybrid, non-GM, and heirloom types grown chemical-free in a natural environment. Their selection includes both edible and ornamental varieties of trees, shrubs and herbaceous plants.
Contact them through their website or Facebook page.

NON-GMO Hawaii Heirloom Seeds  Honolulu, Hawaii.
A newly established heirloom and non-GMO seed retailer that offers different variety of fruit and vegetable seeds.
Contact: 808-941-0093

Camp Point Seed Co. Illinois, USA.
They are selling non-GMO seed corn, non-GMO soybeans and many more.
Contact: 217-593-7333 and Email: camppointseedco5@yahoo.com

American Organic Illinois, USA.
Their products meet all USDA National Organic Program requirements. This seed was not produced from genetically modified varieties and was carefully grown.
Contact: 815-745-1018 and Email: request@american-organic.com

Great Harvest Organics Indiana, USA.
They are selling organic corn, wheat and soybean seeds.
Contact: 317-984-2364 and Email: amy@greatharvestorganics.com

Blue River Hybrids Iowa, USA.
It is an independently owned and operated by dedicated people who want to provide you the highest quality organic seed corns, organic soybeans and organic forages.
Contact: 800-370-7979

Seed Savers Exchange  Iowa, USA.
Registered and non-profit organization dedicated to saving heirloom seeds. They have an online catalog.
Contact: (563) 382-5990 and Fax: (563) 382-6511

Skyfire Garden Seeds  Kansas, USA.
They sell over 125 varieties of heirloom tomatoes; rare eggplants. heirloom peppers and more. All of these seeds are open-pollinated, non-GMO and no-treated seeds.
Order through their online form.

Sustainable Mountain Agriculture Center Inc. Kentucky, USA.
The major goal of this Center is to demonstrate to the people that farmers do have viable options to off-farm jobs. They assist in identifying, collection and sustaining family and community of heirloom seeds and plants.
Contact: (859) 986-3204

Wood Prairie Farm Maine, USA.
They are a small Certified Organic family farm in the State of Maine. They offer organic potato seeds, orgnaic fertilizer and much more.
Contact: 1-800-829-9765 and Email: orders@woodprairie.com

They offer seeds, organically grown seedlings, seed potatoes, orchard and also farm and garden supplies.
Contact: (207) 426-9900

Pinetree Garden Seeds & AccessoriesMaine, USA.
They offer the best prices for thier high quality seeds, books, tools and soap making.
Contact: 207-926-3400 and Email: pinetree@superseeds.com

Johnny’s Selected Seeds Maine, USA.
It is an employee-owned company since July 2006. They offers heirlooms, organics and hybrids seeds.
Contact: 207-861-3900

This is farm-based seed supplier that sells only certified organic, hand-harvested open-pollinated and heirloom seeds that are grown on their farm.

Annie’s Heirloom Seeds Michigan, USA.
They offer a wide range of vegetable seeds like broccoli, beans, asparagus and many more. They also have gardening supplies and book for beginners. This is a one stop shop for your garden needs.
Contact: 800-313-9140

Todd’s Seeds Michigan, USA.
They specialize in organic, heirloom, non-GMO and open pollinated vegetable, flower and sprouting seeds.
Contact them through the online form on their website.

Organic Heirloom Plants Michigan, USA.
They raise their own organic plants and heirloom plants that are 100% free of chemical and pesticides.

Orchard House Heirloom Michigan, USA.
Orchard House Heirlooms is dedicated to bring to market the most sustainable vegetable and herb seeds on the planet, heirlooms. All of their seeds are heirloom or organic heirloom and do not sell hybrid or GMO seeds.
Contact: 269-782-7000

Albert Lea Seed Minnesota, USA.
They are Certified Organic Processors, meeting the National Organic Program standards for processing organically-raised grains, soybeans and other field crops.
Contact: (800) 352-5247

Grannys Heirloom Seeds Missouri, USA.
They offer non-hybrid heirloom seeds, heirloom herb seeds and garden tools.
Contact: 1-800-274-3899

Pantry Garden Herbs Missouri, USA.
They offer a lot of different organic vegetable and organic herb plants. They are USDA certified.
Contact: (877) 572-4142 and Email: info@pantrygardenherbs.com

Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds Missouri, USA. This is one of my favorite seed companies The company has grown to offer 1450 varieties of vegetables, flowers and herbs. The largest selection of heirloom varieties in the U.S.A. All of their seeds are non-hybrid, non-GMO, non-treated and non-patented.
Contact: (417) 924-8917 and Email: seeds@rareseeds.com

Gourmet Seed New Mexico, USA.
They are selling a wide range of organic vegetable seeds, flower seeds, herb seeds, tools and supplies.
Contact: 575-398-6111

Fruition Seeds, New York, ISA
They cultivate over 300 varieties of certified organic vegetables, herbs, and flowers.
Contact: (585)-374-8903

Lakeview Organic Grain, LLC New York, USA.
They have organic seeds, animal feed and organic feed grain.
Contact: 315-531-1038 and Email: kandmhfarm@sprintmail.com

Harris Seeds New York, USA.
They support the success of organic growers by offering high quality organic and untreated seeds, organic plants, and OMRI listed supplies for organic growing.
Contact: (800) 544-7938

Hudson Valley Seed Library New York, USA.
They only offer heirloom and open-pollinated seeds. No hybrids and nothing genetically engineered.
Contact: 845-204-8769 and Email: mail@seedlibrary.org

Blaine’s Best Seeds North Dakota, USA.
They sell organic soybeans, pinto, oats, green peas and many more.
Contact: 701-776-6023 and Email: bbestseeds@stellarnet.com

Livingston Seed Ohio, USA.
Livingston Seed is a wholesale company, selling only to the trade. Have signed the Safe Seed Pledge and are proudly GMO-free.
Phone: 800.848.2970 Email: info@livingstonseed.com

Dust Bowl Seed Oklahama, USA.
They sell 100% pure and natural and 100% GMO-FREE seeds of garlic, onions, beans and many more. You can also check their products online.
Contact: 918-207-6053 and Email: info@dustbowlseed.com

Family Farmers Seed Cooperative Oregon, USA.
A farmer-owned cooperative that produces high quality, organic, open-pollinated, public domain seeds for farmers.
Contact: 541-233-4249 and Email: info@organicseedcoop.com

Territorial Seed Company Oregon, USA.
They offer a wide range of organic seeds of vegetables, flowers, fruits, herbs and much more.
Contact: 541-942-0510 and Email: info@territorialseed.com

Victory Seeds Oregon, USA.
They are a small family owned and operated organization that works to preserve plant varieties by locating, growing, documenting and offering heirloom and rare open-pollinated seeds to home gardeners.
Contact: Fax: (503) 829-3126 and Email: info@victoryseeds.com

Adaptive Seeds Oregon, USA.
Their seeds are not hyrbids, patented, or genetically modified. They have a wide range of vegetable seeds to choose from.
Contact: (541) 367-1105 and Email: adaptiveseeds@gmail.com

All Good Things Organic Seeds Oregon, USA.
As you can see on their company name, all of the seeds that they are selling are organic quality vegetable and herbs.
Contact: 805-758-3184 and Email: agtoseeds@gmail.com

Daggawalla Seeds and Herbs Oregon, USA.
All of their seeds are open-pollinated and non-GMO that are organically-grown by the owners. They offer a wide range of medicinal and culinary herbs, heirloom vegetables, staple crops, flowers and many more. Their seed collection ranges from common to the rare, from the native to the cosmopolitan, and from the fussy to the facile.
Contact: 503-686-5557 or Email: daggawalla@riseup.net

Umpquatopia Oregon, USA.
Located in Southern Oregon’s Umpqua (Ump-kwah) Valley that offers varieties of heirloom vegetables, herbs, companion plants and native plant seeds all grow without the use of synthetics with permaculture methods.
Email: geoff@umpquatopia.com

Amishland Heirloom Seeds Pennsylvania, USA.
Lisa is selling heirloom heritage, exotic and foreign organically raised seeds.
Contact: lisa@amishlandseeds.com

Heirloom Seeds Pennsylvania, USA.
All their seeds are open pollinated (non-hybrid), un-treated and non-GMO.
Contact: (724) 663-5356

The Cook’s Garden Pennsylvania, USA.
It’s the best sources for organic seeds and supplies, European and American heirloom and specialty varieties.
Contact: 1-800-457-9703

The Ark Institute Pennsylvania, USA.
They offer 100% non-hybrid, non-GMO and chemical free produce seeds.
Contact: (800) 255-1912 and Email: support@arkinstitute.com

Burpee Philadelphia, USA.
Seeds are never chemically treated, and are GMO free. Some heirloom varieties.
Contact: (800) 888-1447

Marianna’s Heirloom Seeds Tennessee, USA.
They only use a natural growing method so all of their seeds are un-treated, non-GMO or hybrid.
Contact: Fax: 615-807-3088

Hope Seed Company Tennessee, USA.
They specialize in open-pollinated and heirloom vegetable seed varieties that are rare and not readily commercially available.
Contact: Email: info@newhopeseed.com

Center Of The Webb Texas, USA.
They specialize in rare seeds – they have flower and heirloom and organic seeds and some really unusual “weird and wonderful” vegetable and fruit seeds too.
Email: centerofthewebb@gmail.com

Diane’s Flower Seeds Utah, USA.
They sell open-pollinated and heirloom flower seeds, like rare perennials. They also sell heirloom tomato seeds and vegetable and herbs seeds.
Email: dianelinsley@msn.com

High Mowing Organic Seeds Vermont, USA.
Founded in 1996. They are selling 100% organic vegetable seeds, herb seeds and flower seeds
Contact: 802-472-6174

Southern Exposure Seed Exchange Virginia, USA.
They offer many unusual, Southern heirlooms, including peanuts, southern peas, naturally colored cotton and much more.
Contact: 540-894-9480 and Fax: 540-894-9481

Epic Gardens Virginia, USA.
They sell edamame seeds, classically bred, organically grown.
Contact: 804-617-6312 and Email: epicgardens@gmail.com

Backyard Beans & Grain Projects Washington, USA.
They produce a large variety of vegetables, berries, peas and many more. All of their seeds are open-pollinated, non-GMO and non-hybrid.
Contact: (360) 224-4757

Filaree Garlic Farm Washington, USA.
They sell organic garlic seeds and newly added organic potatoes. They are certified annually by the Washington State Department and the USDA.
Contact: (509) 422-6940

Seeds For Generations USA.
A family business selling organic heirloom vegetable seeds and related gardening products.
Contact them through their website.

SeedsNow.com USA.
An online shop that sells 100% NON-GMO, non-hybrid and heirloom Herb, Fruits and Vegetable Seeds.
Contact: 1-877-344-4669 and Email: support@SeedsNow.com

Indoor Harvest Gardens USA
Committed to preserving heirloom varieties and safe, organic, non-GMO seed. Practicing sustainable, earth-friendly, bio-dynamic farming methods.
See website for ordering

Knapp’s Fresh Vegies USA.
Currently listing about 450 varieties of mostly heirloom tomatoes.
Contact: knappschiles@charter.net

Posted in Biodiversity, Gardening, organic gardening, Permaculture, Saving seeds and cultivars, Seasonal gardening plants, Seed propagation, Sustainable and safe seed companies | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Good Bugs (and other beneficials) for the garden and the planet   2-21-22 

Good Bugs (and other beneficial) for the garden and the planet   2-21-22 

It’s spring and many insects start to awaken and inhabit the world, especially our gardens and farms.

Only a small percentage of insects and arachnids (spiders) are harmful to people. They all have a place in nature and have worked out their place in the balance of things long before humans came on the scene. A wise husband of the land knows the difference between the ones that harm them and those that help them. Thus benefiting from their hard work and beauty.

As children we have most all of us received a lot of direction from well meaning parents who try to protect us from stings and bites which is their job. But you can’t put them all in the ‘bad bug’ category. Especially since with all the chemicals introduced into the world in the last 100 or so years which were ‘solutions’ to scourges (a cause of wide or great affliction) impacting food sources or land use, we really need to reevaluate this concept that nature is only something to be conquered or killed. We live here, they do, we need to live in harmony and help each other. Even the bad bugs have their place, but how we handle that impacts our own health and well being.

When petrochemical (oil based) pesticides came into use it wasn’t until much later that it was recognized that these chemicals killed not only the unbalanced populations of ‘harmful’ (to farmers) bugs such as aphids, grasshoppers, etc. which eat our food sources,  but they also kill the predators that hold them in check in nature. And that once the predators are wiped out along with the other bugs, the ‘prey’ (bad bugs) start to reproduce in a much greater rate making the continued use of these chemicals needed more and more. But they also are toxins to humans and animals. And they tend to accumulate in the land and in our food. Ever wonder why there is an epidemic of cancer, diabetes, and other chronic illnesses since your mom was a kid? All those chemicals though they ‘solve’ problems bring with them harm when used exclusively to control nature.

So, in Permaculture Design, nature is the pattern we follow, through observation and understanding of how nature works. By isolating which bugs are helpful – actually making our work more productive, efficient, and cutting down what we have to do, relying on natural processes to help – they go a long way in helping us living within nature’s laws.

Did you know that for every 5 bites of food humans eat, 3 of them are directly related to the pollinators such as bees, butterflies, humming birds, wasps, and other flying bugs, even some species of flies? We aren’t just talking about honey bees either. That mud wasp making its nest in the tree or under your eves is actually a friendly pollinating insect. I have lived harmoniously with mud wasps for decades. The only time one ever hurt me was once when I still had long hair and I brushed up against a peach tree out in my garden, the poor thing got caught in my hair, crawled up to my head, and stung me. She wasn’t angry, he was scared.

Of course there are some bugs you really don’t want in your garden like yellow jackets whose stings are painful and in enough numbers for those sensitive can be very bad. I’m not especially fond of black hornets either. But for every kind you don’t like, there are possibly hundreds you don’t notice which are helping keep the balance of nature.

Not all ants are the stinging variety. We have had fire ants here in the South for a couple of decades and they are a pain. But there are many kinds that are beneficial. For example Peony flowers can’t even open unless ants eat off the sticky substance around the bud. Some ants burrow into the soil and open it to air and water, very helpful for the health of the plants growing in that soil. In China ancient wisdom is ‘don’t mess with the ants, they are helpful and beneficial’. If you do have fire ants, consider diatomaceous earth or boiling water on their mounds and leave the pesticide or ant bait at the store. I haven’t really found any that work either, so being tricky and observant, you can fight them.

We have spiders here that range from little almost invisible ones up to giant black and yellow ‘orb’ spiders which populate our area. I protect these ladies and their webs because they eat some of the pests like squash beetle and some flying insects I’d rather not be eating my vegetables. They keep the balance in nature by being predators. Recently the Juro spider has invaded our area, and they need killin. They eat the orb spiders and unbalance things, being non-native invaders. They unbalance the spider population. But instead of hauling the can of bug killer out into the garden, I just use a long stick, twirl it around the nest where the spider is, bring it down and step on it. Then I protect my orb ladies. No chemicals, and they get taken out.

A few years ago we had an invasive kudzu beetle, a little thing about ¼” blackish brown bug which was also an invader. It wiped out my beans and sunflowers and covered the white part of the banisters on my front porch. I was mad. But I went around with a cottage cheese container with some water and dish soap, and a little brush and gave them a swimming lesson. I kept that up for two years, and last year I only found one or two of them, which were quickly dispatched. No chemicals.

People complain about squash beetles. I found out what their eggs and babies looked like (little bronze colored balls about 1/16th in diameter found under leaves on newly growing squash and pumpkin plants), (little white miniature bugs on the leaves a little while later), and do the same thing with the cottage cheese container and soapy water, only I use the lid of the container instead of a brush, works great. I then just cover the container once my chore is done, and leave it out in the sun. That water goes on the compost later, no bugs. Some people use duct tape to remove the eggs, but I just squish them – not being squeamish. If you catch them early, they just don’t repopulate. But I do check under the leaves and watch for them all summer.

When the aphids come out in force about the time of late summer when the plants start to bolt (send up stems of flowers and seeds), I either hand squish them, cut off the stems into a plastic bag and step on the bag if it’s a lot, or spray with vinegar and soapy water. But first I make sure I don’t kill any of my lady bugs or lace wing bugs because these are their food supply. They are the predators I want to help along.

Spiders other than orb and juro live in gardens. Pretty much all spiders are predators. Their neatly concentric webs decorate our garden spaces, or in the case of black widow, or some other spider species webs look like a cloud of webbing material over their nests. I used to kill all of those black bodies spiders but now I leave them alone because they are very efficient ‘bad bugs’ i.e. pests, killers and they are not aggressive. The only ones I watch out for are the brown recluse, but they are shy and don’t come out to attack you. Just watch for them in dark hidden spaces. But if you know the habits of these bugs, you can protect yourself. Just teach your children about this too so they are wise and not afraid.

So many of the flying bugs in a garden are going about their good business pollinating, preying on pests, or doing other mysterious jobs that keep nature in balance. Some of them are ugly, some beautiful, all of them interesting I think.

Next time you find a bug in your garden or yard that you don’t recognize, before you kill it, catch it in a glass jar or glass, carefully put an index card over the mouth of the jar, and look it up. You might find that it’s a friendly. Let it outside and wish it well. If it’s really an odd one, you can call your local extension officer or the etymology (study of bugs) department at your local university and get some information. They probably would appreciate it if they are watching the populations of various insects too. Once I had the etymology professor at UGA come out to my garden and bless his heart, he spent 4 hours here teaching me about the bugs that live here. I am much more respectful of their kind now for sure.

In the fall and winter, many of these beneficial insects over-winter in leaf mold or dead vegetation of the garden. Mason bees, solitary (not hive living) bees which are powerful pollinators, especially beneficial in orchards and for fruit trees, nest in hollow stems of dead vegetation. They over-winter and their babies emerge in the spring. If you are one of those gardeners who want their gardens to look like “Home and Garden” center spreads, you’ll be out there cutting down all the dead stuff, raking up all the leaves and debris in the garden, and feel good about it. But realize, you are making yourself handle many of the things those good bugs lodging in that stuff do without your hand, and energy and time.

You can help these native bees and pollinators by providing them houses in your garden. Here’s a great tutorial on making bee houses. https://blog-yard-garden-news.extension.umn.edu/2018/04/building-better-bee-home.html

Mason bees dos and don’ts: https://colinpurrington.com/2019/05/horrors-of-mass-produced-bee-houses/?fbclid=IwAR0EZZowLe18pp7RXFFGqMyJBorJDewjD9UwpokX7EbPz3w7bSkFkGfjq88

I leave dead stems with seeds on them realizing that those seeds are food for the little birds I need for my garden (they eat a lot of prey bugs and their song helps plants thrive). If there are no seeds on them, I often cut them but leave the debris on the ground for other good insects that need some insulation over the winter. Fallen autumn leaves are harbors of safety for many beneficial bug populations, so I wait till the buds start to blossom on my fruit trees (when the bugs come out of hiding) before I sweep up and prune up the garden in the spring. It may not look so pretty, to the untrained eye, but in the long run, those layers of leaves and dead plant debris help to refresh and fertilize the soil – cutting down on the need for soil amends and fertilizers. By spring most of it is broken down into composted matter, keeping down the weed populations. And the bugs come out and do their spring duties as good bugs.

Here are some references for IDing the good bugs. Hope this helps you have a more harmonious and healthy garden, not to mention a more healthful garden environment for growing your food and medicinal plants.

Getting to know the good guys from the ones you would rather not host means identifying them and understanding their roles in nature. Here is a fairly comprehensive list of websites that can help you know your bugs (and birds) which are your friends.

Don’t forget that many reptiles (friendly snakes), frogs and toads, turtles, etc. all help keep the balance too. But that is the subject of another article.

One of my favorite projects in the garden is planting the plants that host the beneficial insects so I have a bee haven garden plan which includes growing lots of flowers and flowering plants that bloom from early spring to late summer. Included in this plan are zinneas, butterfly bushes and milk weeds (butterfly food), almost any flowering annuals but also perennial Mexican Sage (blooms into late summer, early fall till first freeze), marigolds, big sunflowers (an especial love for bees), flowering fruit trees (cherry trees especially are first flowering for bees in spring), Rose of Sharon bush, and almost anything that blooms from spring to late fall. Just include flowers in with your vegetables to help pollinate the blossoms, all through the garden. I even have a whole bed dedicated to pollinator attractors. https://www.bbg.org/gardening/article/make_your_garden_a_haven_for_insect_diversity

Butterfly garden plants: https://www.pinterest.com/pin/490470215637907306/

Just as a tip, dandelions are one of the bee’s favorite foods. Every part of a dandelion is either edible, medicinal, or soil building, as well as beneficial to the whole environment. So I never spray my lawn either. If it’s green it gets mowed, but I don’t kill them off. I have found so many medicinal and edible plants growing natively in my yard I consider it another one of my garden beds.

Enjoy your garden, and know it is a gift from nature to be able to interact and sponsor those beautiful good bugs and natural little guys.

Good Gardening.

Diann Dirks, Certified Permaculture Designer

Explore the bugs in your garden, the good and the ‘bad’ and what to do to help them survive and stay in harmony:

Wasps: https://prairieecologist.com/2021/03/15/wasps/?fbclid=IwAR3BTCitFP21zTTier_rAa3AVXfzStbFTanD7UdcK1rWnbAnyc9m9LYDzU4




General beneficial bugs in the garden as well as repellent recipes


Beneficial bugs and resources for ordering them for your garden:

Butterflies and other beneficial insects


Identifying butterflies in the garden:


Beneficial birds in the garden:


Posted in Bee haven gardens, Bees, bug repelling in garden', Fire Ants, Flowering herbs, Flowering plants', Gardening, health, Herb gardening, organic gardening, Permaculture, Permaculture design precept applications, pest management, Planetary management using Permaculture, Pollinator haven gardens, Seasonal gardening plants, Soil fertility and yield, The beginning Gardener information, Uncategorized, Wild crafting and wild plants, winter gardening | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Permaculture Design practical applications 2-15-22

This is the first video I have done for my own group of homesteaders in NE Georgia, as part of a nation wide group – Ladies Homestead Gathering. And it’s my first YouTube video. Wish me luck.

We’re a large group of women involved in every aspect of homesteading, farming, home crafts, and doing everything yourself that would take you to the store. It’s a great group of creative, resourceful, smart and fun women which I have been a part of since 2011. This video is about one of my favorite subjects and activities – Permaculture Design. I was asked to present this subject to a room full of my fellow homesteaders last month (January 2022). In it I decided to present some very practical things which can be done immediately to make use of this wonderful and powerful science of design, as well as give an introduction to the subject to people who may not have an idea of it.

I invite you to see the video and give feedback on the subject or ask questions.

If you want more information on the Ladies Homestead Gathering group, go to:


Posted in Food Forest, Gardening, Herb gardening, Living a happier life, organic gardening, Permaculture design precept applications, Planet restoration, Planetary management using Permaculture, Self-Sustainability, Soil fertility and yield, The beginning Gardener information, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Appreciating the Ordinary, A Reminder of Soul 2-15-22

I had a friend in L.A. many years ago who was Japanese. She survived the A-bomb in Nagasaki and was very badly burned. Her father was Yakusa (Japanese mafia), her mother was a concubine of his, and they lived in a compound surrounded by his army of young men. When she was so burned her father who loved her dearly and was very wealthy paid for 10 years of special care for her to restore her skin and give her a chance at a decent life. Her face looked untouched, but she showed me her chest and shoulders which still had some scarring, although I would imagine nothing like it would have been before treatment.

She was an amazing woman and friend. Her mother wasn’t with her father when my friend grew to adulthood. She moved on and became a famous kimono maker in Southern Kushu Island in Japan. A wise mother who taught her “Appreciate everything you have”. She shared that with me. It was a lifelong lesson I have taken to heart. It gave her courage and has elevated my thoughts for all these years.

She used to invite me downstairs in the apartment house we shared, for tea, beautiful Japanese tea, and maybe something simple to eat. That friendship was precious to me. She made the simplest thing beautiful. She’s say Diann Chan (a term of endearment), ‘appreciate’, as she poured me another cup of wonderful tea.

If you consider how the world has been chaotic many times, with wars and depressions, hard times, and personal difficulties of every kind, somehow living as we have done in this country with mostly peace inside our boundaries since the Civil War, we take our peace and the goodness and orderliness for granted. So we go about our lives living from day to day expecting things to always be this way. Yet as we live our lives, I have found taking a moment to just look around, see what’s beautiful, even simple or ordinary things like a well made fence, or a cat sunning herself in a window, keeps me smiling and feeling that beauty inside me.

Our peaceful way of life has been a vast blessing paid for by our military, generations of honest and wise citizenry, and our abundance. But these things are being challenged by changes being wrought which go against this tranquility. I’m mindful of these things because I am an amateur historian and know how life can change on a dime. Look at this travesty of a pandemic we have just gone thru. Or the clearing of the shelves in the stores of such things as toilet paper. It was a wakeup call.

I try to support our local businesses, growers, police, charities, and other organizations which are our society, our culture. Big corporations are alike tyrannical intent on one thing only, profit and control of their market. It isn’t all outside forces. I appreciate the local ACE hardware store run by a nice family, or the farmers market full of good people bringing to market their good organic foods and products. I am a ‘friend’ of our local library and help them do fund raising. I try to get things I can’t make or which aren’t grown locally from the grocery store – a small chain in our area. I try to buy American made products. In this way I support our society, and keep the profits and economy healthy here. I appreciate all these people and their communication with each other, their neighborliness and cross-support.  

Our way of life is worth fighting for, or we will end up sinking into the morass of large areas of the world like where the populace has succumbed to tyranny, corruption, bullies pretending to be ‘authority’ or to a malaise of apathy about how our world is and should be.

To keep our good way of life, internally, and to protect our borders from those who would destroy what we have brought here to bring us down, we need to start looking around and being aware of where these changes are coming from, and protect our way of life by taking advantage of the liberties afforded by our Constitution, such as speech, bearing arms, religion, and all that exists in the Bill of Rights. Regardless of how the media spins things and how our children are being educated to not respect these things, we still have this as a basis of our country, it hasn’t gone away, just how it is being offered up for us to consider. We need to appreciate the tools our ancestors gave us to stay free.

Meanwhile go through your life and appreciate all that we still have. We get in our car and go anywhere we wish – for now. We go to the grocery store and usually there is plenty and variety, though the prices are skyrocketing. We have a police force that protects us and that comes when we call them, likewise emergency health care coming in an ambulance. We have elections though now those are being corrupted by people who wish to suppress our rights of choice and representation. We are loosing things and we are feeling the walls closing in on those choices. So, in order to restore our good way of life, we need to appreciate what we take for granted. Then stand up for them and take measures to bring order and sanity against what we know is wrong. What we are seeing is alarming and it can make us want to hide, but if you see these things we can do something about them.

Much of what is surfacing now has been hidden for quite awhile. It’s a good thing and we should appreciate as a challenge and the opportunity to make things right. It’s our birthright to maintain the reins ourselves and stay free, not be subjugated by a bunch of tyrants and crazy people who would make us slaves. Because it is nothing less than that. Be free or slaves. This was how this country was started, to get out from under tyrants. So our founding fathers made sure to remind us of our heritage with the Constitution and the Bill of Rights, and set into those documents how we can remain free by exercising those rights. Tyranny isn’t something new! And the means used haven’t changed that much. That’s why learning history is so important to our liberty.

Personally to remain sane, we need to see the positive side of life and stay-up tone and alive. Here are the good things – friends, groups we can trust, and family. Actively exercise our rights of communication and if the platforms we use are compromised, find others. Right to information – support your local libraries, use search engines that aren’t compromised, support the post office, get to know your neighbors, get active in local government and stay informed, share your views with people and know who you are talking with.

On a simpler level, I keep a part of myself apart from all this, that is much larger than all the worldly things. I enjoy the out-doors. Plant my flowers and vegetables, appreciate the wild life like the bees and butterflies, the birds, trees. I take walks in our local parks or wild terrain. And thank nature for its bounties. Appreciate everything good in your life, and stay happy. Don’t let the insanity take over your mind. Be the master of your own ship. And for goodness sakes, keep your sense of humor. Laugh and enjoy beauty around you. It’s there in abundance.

I saw my first butterfly of the spring yesterday. We have daffodils along our country roads here in NE Georgia, all in bloom. I stopped and picked a large bouquet, leaving an abundance for the bees, which now beautify my kitchen table.

Remember to love people, animals, plants, and the world. Love is the great civilizing matrix of our culture. When someone smiles at me at the market, or lets me into traffic out of kindness, or says a kind word, I see what’s rich about who we are.

We have a place to live, with air, soil, sunshine, water, shelter, friends, and food. Appreciate everything good.

Diann Dirks 2-15-22

Posted in Dealing with People, Life's Lessons, Living a happier life, Movers and Shakers, Planet restoration, Protecting our way of life., The future | Tagged , , | 3 Comments

Permaculture Presentation 27 Jan 2022 for Ladies Homestead Gathering 1-28-22

These are the Talk Notes for a gathering of homesteading women in Winder, Georgia 1-27-22 I’m posting it because it takes some particular applications of Permaculture Design which can benefit the homesteader.

Ladies Homestead Gathering is a national organization with 38 chapters through the United States, founded in Statham, Georgia by a wonderful woman named Cyndi Ball who homesteaded 9 acres and home schooled her 6 children for many years. She has since moved to Montana and Pennsylvania but she is very active in the board of directors of this organization founded to empower women who are engaged in farming, gardening, and all the homesteading arts.

I have been a member of this organization since shortly after its inception and have done a number of presentations for the membership on a variety of subjects. I was asked to do this presentation on Permaculture to help our members use this wonderful design science in their activities and help them get better yield and prosper.

If you are a woman who might be interested in this group contact them at: https://ladieshomesteadgathering.org/

I have included the hand-out sheet presented to attendees.

7 things you can do with Permaculture to have a successful homestead

1.  No-till gardening and soil creation

2.  Making your own liquid fertilizer from weed tea – idea what is a weed or wanted plant

3.  Don’t waste anything – weeds

4.  Stop erosion with berms and swales

5.  Create a pollinator attraction haven

6.  Foster Bio-diversity – Start your own seeds -baby plants with seeds leading into seed saving, sign up before leave

7.  Food Forest and sell book

Promote design service, Internship, Food Forest Book, plants, blog, tours of the garden, Seed Saving class in Sept.

Permaculture Design is the premier environmental design science on the planet. Based on an ethic – Care of the Earth, Care of People, Equitable use of the abundance thus formed. Founder Bill Mollison, an Australian who isolated the laws by which nature creates a sustainable life habitat on earth with or without human habitation who formed a codified science and methodology around these laws applicable on any location on earth without using chemicals or harmful methods or substances. Raises yield for survival and prosperity, good use of one’s own energy by efficient design, and techniques to repair damaged, contaminated, or ruined land using natural laws. Simple techniques and technologies can be applied even by primitive societies, back yard gardeners, farmers, or whole societies. Originally from Permanent Agriculture but later amended to be Permanent Culture as application of natural law was expanded to include whole societies. This talk will hit on some high points aimed at growing things and use of land, and give some well chosen applications that can be used to help you help the planet, and prosper or improve your own land as homesteaders, gardeners, farmers or caring citizens of earth.

  1. No Till gardens. Soil is the most important thing in your garden. Having good soil means things grow well. Plowing the soil lets out the nitrogen which plants need to survive. It also opens the soil to stimulate weed seeds so you fight weeds instead of helping your vegetable plants grow. Weeds take nutrition away from the vegetables. So, first you create your soil mowing the garden space very close to the ground. Then cover the ground with 2 layers of cardboard. Don’t throw your cardboard boxes away, or that big piece the mattress came wrapped in. Then create your soil with ‘sheet mulching’ aka “Lasagna Gardening”. Save up kitchen waste, grass clippings (if you don’t spray for weeds), fireplace ash, get a bag of sand, save autumn leaves and clippings from the hedge, compost from the pile, egg shells, used coffee grounds and tea bags, used garden plants after they are done producing, unsprayed straw – not hay, too many weed seeds, and what’s left over after juicing fruits and vegetables as well as broken up loose native soil including clay, loam, sandy soil or a mixture. Layer these in a ratio of 75% brown (dead leaves, straw, cardboard torn up, ash in small quantities) and 25% green (kitchen waste, fresh grass clippings, juicing waste, fresh hedge clippings, used coffee grounds) – alternating brown and green, usually about 1 to 2” layers. Pile these layers over cardboard to create soil. Repeat this sheet mulching technique by adding 3 or 4 layers at the end of every season – in fall and spring. Then to plant new plants or seeds, dig little 3” deep holes in the fresh layered mulch, put a couple of handfuls of top soil or compost, and plant your babies or seeds, then cover with some mulch like more grass clippings, straw, or leaves. This reduces the emergence of opportunistic weeds and eliminates the need for tilling or plowing.
  2. Making your own fertilizer Instead of using commercial fertilizer such as Miracle Grow or other expensive strong stuff like 10-10-10 from the nursery, make your own Manure/compost tea. Get a 30 gal. kitchen waste basket (used works just fine) or 6 gal. bucket. My favorite way is to get some 1 gal. mesh bags from the paint store used to filter paint, fill one with a shovel full of fresh manure, one of compost, and tie up with some twine (I like the orange plastic twine used to tie up hay bales). Put them in the waste basket, add rainwater or first fill with the hose and leave it open for 2 or 3 days to let the chlorine out. Then add the rain water. Give it about a cup of molasses to feed the good micro-organisms, and set in an air bubbler from the fish section of the pet supply store. Weigh down the open end where the air comes out so it settles to the bottom. This aerates and mixes the tea. After about a week, remove the hose from the air bubbler, take out the bags of organic matter, squeeze the good black tea out, put this in the compost pile. Now you have a concentrated liquid fertilizer. I store this in containers like buckets or what cat little comes in. To use this, in a watering can, put a few inches of the concentrate in, and fill the rest with good water. Drench the soil around your plants or before or after the sun is out, spray the leaves of your plants with a sprayer. This feeds the roots and the upper part of the plant. Always dilute it though at least 50-50, or more dilute if young plants. I make up a big batch of this several times a year and keep my plants well fed. Either drench the soil around the plants, or spray the foliage before or after daylight times.
  3. Don’t waste anything – weeds In Permaculture one of the principles is ‘don’t waste anything’. That means save your cardboard for putting in the compost or layering on the ground to stop weeds growing up thru your beds. It means saving glass jars and bottles to hold your fermented beverages and preserve your jams and vegetables. It means looking at everything as a resource instead of something to put in a land fill. This also includes what we consider a weed. In Permaculture and herbalism, we find most of the weeds are really native plants that have multiple uses including many of them medicinal or bee and butterfly friendly. It just means we don’t know the use or benefit of a plant that we designate it a weed. They also tell us a lot about our soil quality. When certain ‘weeds’ are found we know that the soil is lacking something or is unbalanced. They are like litmus paper telling us if the soil is too acid, too alkaline, too much salt, etc. So when we have overgrown native plants where we don’t want them, we name them weeds. But think of harvesting those plants like chickweed (edible, medicinal), plantain (same), and many others. Do a little research or buy a book on native plants and identify them. This can lead to a lot of yield you didn’t know you had. But also, when you do have to clear a bed so you can grow cultivated plants, utilize the wealth of minerals and nitrogen from it by making weed tea. Especially if the plant has gone to seed and you don’t want to put it in a compost pile to germinate later. Get a 6 gal. bucket, or a 55 gal. drum, fill it with half full of rain water or city water that has been left open for 3 days (clears out the chlorine), and as you glean weeds out, put them in that water, cover the container to keep out the bugs, and let them ferment. When you have filled up the container and let it sit for a couple of weeks to let everything rot, siphon off the liquid and use that instead of water in making your compost tea, or use it directly to fertilize your plants, it’s loaded with minerals. This is so rich in nutrients for the soil, it doubles the potency of your liquid fertilizer. Then throw the solids on the compost knowing no weeds will come of the seeds. Respect your weeds, they are nature’s bounty just hidden by lack of information. Dandelions are so rich Europeans brought them over on the first ships to America because every part of them is either medicinal, edible, or soil beneficial.
  4. Stop Erosion with Berms and Swales  The best place for water is in the soil. By directing a water flow back and forth across the land it slows it down and allows it to percolate down. If you live on a hill which causes the top soil to erode, or if you wish to capture rain water and let it settle in the ground, we use ‘berms and swales’. A berm is a long hillock of soil. A swale is a long ditch. Berms and swales can be almost any size depending on how much water you want to capture, but usually they are a few feet wide and 1 or 2 feet deep. By digging the swale, and piling up the soil on the downhill side you stop running water from carrying off your top soil, stopped by the higher berm. This forces the water into the ground where the roots can reach it. You can do a series of these berms and swales down a hillside and use the berms to grow your plants on. By adding compost and sheet mulching technique on the berm, it is essentially a ‘raised bed’ which gives the roots lots of room to grow. This is particularly good for the roots if the ground is hard packed clay or hard land and makes it hard for the roots to grow. Sheet mulched soil is light, fertile and gives plants exactly what they want. By having the swale uphill from the berm water collects under the berm and gives the plants a source of moisture.
  5.  Create a pollinator attraction haven Our bees and butterflies have a hard time surviving because agriculture and gardeners use a lot of chemicals to kill pests but which also kill our friends. So, creating a pollinator garden that attracts them helps us keep our bees from destruction and hive collapse. Such a garden can be a separate space for just these insects or you can make your whole garden where you grow your vegetables, flowers and herbs making the whole place a haven. To do this you want to include planting particularly bee and butterfly friendly flowers and herbs. Even planting some of the herbs that give the larvae of these insects a place to set their cocoons like milkweed, parsley, and beauty berry bush, to name a few. Growing marigolds among your vegetables, sunflowers, honeysuckle on trellises around the garden, bee balm (also medicinal), butterfly bush, phlox, Echinacea – cone flower, lantana, black eyed susan, heliotrope, lavender, butterfly weed (asclepias tuberose), swamp milkweed,  cosmos, aster, salvia, hollyhocks, goldenrod, assium, Joe Pye weed, cardinal flower, sedum,  calendula (annual), perennials and annuals. https://www.hgtv.com/outdoors/flowers-and-plants/flowers/20-flowers-for-a-cutting-garden-pictures I like to surround my raised beds with cinder blocks, pointing the open cells upwards and filling them with good soil, to plant my perennial flowers and herbs along the rows to attract pollinators without disturbing their roots when the annuals get replanted every season.
  6.  Foster bio-diversity – start your own seeds  Conventional agriculture grows a very limited number of fruits and vegetables because they are shelf long lived. But this limits the flavors, the nutritional value, and usually requires hybrid varieties that are only good for one season, then the seeds are useless. But by growing your own heirloom, heritage, open pollinator and land race varieties (land race, a long grown variety specific to a given location that are bullet proof), you keep these precious ancient and very nutritious varieties alive. They are not dependent on a seed company as you save them year to year and they breed true, whereas hybrids don’t. By saving your seeds and planting them year after year, sharing them, and keeping a variety alive, you ensure food security. So look on the packages for ‘heirloom’ or ‘heritage’ varieties. Seed companies like Baker Creek Heirloom Seed Co., Seed Savers Exchange, Johnnie’s Select Seeds, Amishland Heirloom Seeds (Penn.), Southern Exposure Seed Exchange, Virginia, to name a few https://realfarmacy.com/131-heirloom-seed-companies-by-region/?fbclid=IwAR2hYYiCABySHXFLkFeIo0h3Bfjy_Un1pxKeOSZhVuIXwXym2zmZio2nG7I  You can also get heirloom seeds from friends and at seed exchanges and swaps.

Better yet, once you have grown an heirloom variety, let the best ones go to seed and save them. I have been asked to do a presentation in Sept. on seed saving so you can learn how to do this yourself and ensure the survival of our precious heirloom varieties. We have lost 90% of these precious plants over time and intentionally thru unethical seed company and corporate actions, so it is up to the individual gardener and farmer to preserve these food and herb sources.

  1. Food Forest In nature most of the plants are either perennial, biannual, or self seeding. Pioneer plants (usually annual or short lived perennials) we usually call weeds are meant to germinate quickly and bind the soil after a disaster, and give time to establish perennials like trees, bushes, woody herbs, and self seeding herbs and flowers. The annual vegetable and fruit plants in today’s agriculture have been bred over long periods of time and need man’s hand to cultivate, plant and care for them. But when seeking a sustainable designed environment, Mr. Mollison evolved an integratively planted on-going forest including plants which don’t need man’s hand once established. We have come to rely on annual varieties for large farm growing and careful plant training for our recognizable food plants which started out as wild plants but thru generations got bred and carefully selected for the most delicious foods. Like carrots which started out as Queen Anne’s Lace, but grown for their root. The food forest was developed as a way to have sustainable food, medicine, and resources growing almost without effort once established. In a Permaculture Design the food forest is separated from the annual growing areas as they require much less energy and effort. It utilizes the techniques of ‘companion gardening’ called ‘guilds’ in PD. It utilizes the 7 layers of vertical space interplanted with varieties that support each other, usually anchored by a tree or bush. Surrounding that anchor plant are the 7 layers with varieties that satisfy many of the needs of that plant and its ‘family’. These functions include providing nitrogen and nutrients for the soil such as nitrogen fixing plants such as legumes (peas, beans, etc.), red clover, vetch (a legume), false indigo (Baptisia spp.), lupine, wild senna, and others. Many of these are flowering and make good bee and butterfly attractors such as red clover, white clover, and peas. Legumes seed need to be inoculated with a bacterium (Rhizobium) which can be purchased as a black powder from seed companies, which spur them to hold nitrogen in their roots. Other nitrogen fixers may not require this. Some shrubs and bushes also capture nitrogen and work well in a food forest, such as bayberry, New Jersey Tea, Sweet Fermn, and Alders. Alfalfa is another good one. https://fafard.com/garden-plants-add-nitrogen-soil/  In the food forest, careful planning, like a puzzle, leads to tremendous yield later on. Because it needs less attention once established it is usually created further out from the main living and activity areas.

The book A Georgia Food Forest


Internship program

Hand Out for Permaculture talk with LHG 1-27-22 

                    7 things you can do with Permaculture to have a successful homestead

Permaculture is the premier environmental design science on the planet. It is a vast subject because it covers all of nature and the natural world. But it is codified for ease of understanding and real application. The science of it puts nature into prospective.  It has the technology and techniques to restore dead or dying land or increase yield and production to already productive environments, while also restoring natural law and balance, without chemicals or destruction. It is based on laws isolated and applied of how nature works and keeps working with or without human intervention. This talk will hit on some high points and give some well chosen applications that can be used to help you help the planet, and prosper on your own land. More information is available on my blogsite: thegardenladyofga.wordpress.com where I have a body of blogs that cover a wide assortment of applicable subjects, many about Permaculture and related subjects. I have recently posted a couple of articles which give Permaculture in more depth which I invite you to visit.

1.  No-till gardening and soil creation Sheet Mulching (Lasagna Gardening) technique to create, build, or improve organic fertile soil. Starting with cardboard on the ground and building layers of 1-3” of a collection of organic material, sand, ash, kitchen waste, and native soil. Then planting in that before it breaks down, by making a little hole in it, adding a couple of handfuls of completed compost or top soil, and planting in that directly, either plants or seeds. Doing this replaces the need for plowing or tilling as the worms do that for you. It also reduces the germination of weed seeds.

2.  Making your own liquid fertilizer from weed, compost and manure tea  Starting with prepared water (rain or rested water or water which has fermented weeds), adding bags of fresh manure, compost, molasses and air from a bubbler (like used in fish tanks). Let percolate for 2 to3 weeks, compost the solid matter, save the liquid, dilute it 50-50 with water (or more dilute for baby plants) and apply it by drenching the soil or spraying it on the leaves (before and after

3.  Don’t waste anything –. Saving and using glass jars, recycling, reusing or repurposing anything is about thrift but also good sense. A weed is an unused, unrecognized, misunderstood, or unwanted plant – most are edible, medicinal, pollinator supporting, or soil building. Reevaluating what is a weed vs. beneficial plant – many ‘weeds’components are highly medicinal, edible, top soil building, or otherwise useful plants, and when pulled, can enrich water for further fertility by fermenting, using as a base for manure tea adds minerals and other plant.  Put weeds in a bucket or drum, let them ferment and break down, remove the water and store it or use it as a direct fertilizer. Compost the solids. Dilute it for direct use in seed beds or spray foliage (before or after sunlight hours). Waste nothing.

4.  Stop erosion with berms and swales.  The best place for water is in the soil. By directing its flow and allowing water to return to the ground, you control and utilize it and don’t loose it as an energy. Dig a long 2’ wide ditch, take the soil and pile it on the downhill side. Prepare soil on the piled areas by add some sheet mulching. Plant along the top or sides (trees along the downhill side to benefit from the moisture collected).

5.  Create a pollinator attraction haven. Bees, butterflies, other insects and hummingbirds are beneficial to plants.  Include flowering plants and herbs in a separate garden space or include these beneficial plants in amongst your whole garden areas. They can be annual or perennial but provide pollinators with what they need to flourish. Included are any flowering annuals, perennials, flowering herbs or bushes. They can be planted in the empty holes in cinder blocks around a raised bed or in amongst the other plants. Many of these plants are multi-purpose for medicine, edible, dye, or fiber as well.

6.  Foster Bio-diversity – Start your own seeds in the ground or in flats. Using heirloom, heritage, or open pollinated varieties insures that no matter the changes in a year’s weather, or other environmental changes, some will survive and provide food and medicine. Only planting heirloom seeds and not wasting space in the garden with hybrid ensures the future of these precious varieties and their spreading back into society. Companies that provide only heirloom seeds include Baker Creek Heirloom Seed Co., Seed Savers Exchange, Johnnie’s Select Seeds, Amishland Heirloom Seeds (Penn.), Southern Exposure Seed Exchange, Virginia, and others: https://realfarmacy.com/131-heirloom-seed-companies-by-region/?fbclid=IwAR2hYYiCABySHXFLkFeIo0h3Bfjy_Un1pxKeOSZhVuIXwXym2zmZio2nG7I  We will be doing another presentation in September on seed saving in depth. Please sign up for it.

7. Food Forest – Designing the most efficient yield creating space uses 7 or 8 vertical zones including ground cover, herbaceous, small bush and tree, full size tree, canopy tree, root and vine, and sometimes a water area. Mostly perennial plants or self-seeding varieties are used so almost no labor is required for maintenance once fully established beyond harvesting and pruning. When well planned it’s an almost everlasting source of food, herbal medicine, bee haven, dye plants, basket making material, and cut flowers if desired. Designed with the technique of companion planting called a ‘guild’ where the plants form a family which lends symbiotic support – protection, pollination, soil fertility creating, moisture retention, soil building, around an anchor tree or bush.

A book (out of print, rare) written for Georgia called “A Georgia Food Forest -180 Perennial Edible Plants and a Design Guide for the Zone 8 Home Grower” by Cynthia R. Dill is available thru me. 

Please visit my blogsite for more detailed articles on Permaculture Design at: thegardenladyofga.wordpress.com  didirks@comcast.net   FB Georgia Dirks,  FB page – The Garden Lady of Georgia  Diann Dirks 1-27-22

Posted in Bee haven gardens, compost/manure/herb teas for fertilizing, Food Forest, Food protection, Gardening, Herb gardening, organic gardening, Permaculture, Permaculture design precept applications, Planet restoration, Recycle, repurpose, reuse, Self-Sustainability, Soil fertility and yield, Sustainable and safe seed companies, The beginning Gardener information, Wild crafting and wild plants | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment