Thrive Life Foods

www.greatlakespermaculture.thrivelife.com

www.greatlakespermaculture.thrivelife.com

It is with great pleasure that I can announce that Great Lakes Permaculture is now a Thrive Life Foods Distributor. As part of our Permaculture teaching, we cover food preservation techniques such as canning, fermenting, and dehydration, but freeze dried is too costly for the average person to afford. Yet we understand the value of having quality food available for your family for everyday use and also in times of emergency.

After testing the Thrive Life food products, I was impressed with the quality and their ability to capture the freshness of the food without the chemical additives and coatings associated with most food products. Products are available in pouches, pantry cans, and #10 size cans, so you can find the right size to fit your needs. Thrive also exhibits the 3rd Permaculture Principle of “Set Limits and Redistribute Surplus” by contributing 5% back to their charity, Thrive Nations.

Thrive Nations

Thrive Nations

If you would like more information, visit us at www.greatlakespermaculture.thrivelife.com.

Thrive Foods

Thrive Foods

What is eating my Gooseberries?

I am behind on my usual duties in the garden, no excuses except I started late this year, the weather did not help, and I always try to accomplish more than I can possibly get done by myself. The last few weeks, I have been happily moving through the garden cutting weeds, staking a plant here or there, performing usual maintenance on the garden. The north side of the house always gets neglected, that is part of the design so I do not have to worry about those plants and bushes as they are basically self-sustaining, a combination of Jostaberrys, Currants, and Gooseberry’s.

So when I finally did pay a little attention to the forgotten little things, I was upset with myself to find out that something has been eating away at my Gooseberry’s. Not the entire plant, just about every single leaf on the plant, leaving only the naked stems of the leaf similar to the eerie trees sticking up in the moonlight in a cheesy horror movie. The Gooseberry’s looked fine for now, but I knew that they would not survive long without the nourishment that the leaves provide, I could lose my entire crop in a matter of a few short days. I had to act fast, I could “Ask a Master Gardener”, or I could set out on my own to find this sinister fiend.

Gooseberries are not a common fruit crop in the area, a minor fruit that is a member of the Ribes family. Although the Gooseberry is indigenous to many parts of Europe and western, south and Southeast Asia, my memories of the Gooseberry revolve around the British countryside, provided in novels dating back to William Turner, the naturalist in his notes around the middle of the 16th century. He noted that the common pests are the magpie moth (Abraxas grossulariata) caterpillar, (Macaria wauaria) and Gooseberry sawfly (Nematus ribesii). Many of the early varieties of Gooseberry’s are susceptible to white pine blister rust, but that is not the problem that I am experiencing. Checking the previous mentioned pests, the Gooseberry sawfly was a perfect match for what I saw growing in front of me. The details of the pest are show immediately below. The documents also show that this pest will attack Currants, the sawfly had not gotten to my Currants which are next to the Gooseberry’s and I did not want them to get there.

Severe defoliation of the bushes can be caused by the caterpillar-like larvae of one of three species of sawfly.

Larvae of the common gooseberry sawfly are up to 20mm (almost 3/4in) long, pale green, with many black spots, and black heads The adult females are 5-7mm (up to 1/4in) long and are yellow with black heads and black markings on the thorax; males are similar but more extensively marked with black, including the upper surface of the abdomen.

Larvae of the pale spotted gooseberry sawfly are smaller than those of the common gooseberry sawfly and have pale green heads.

The small gooseberry sawfly can have up to four generations of pale green larvae from late April on-wards. The larvae of some moths may also eat the foliage of gooseberries and currants.

Methods of treatment include picking them off by hand, not an option I plan to execute. Chemicals are available, but my first choice is always an organic option if I have one. My course of action is to place Diatomaceous earth around the base of the plant to try and catch them before they drop to the soil and form a cocoon from which the next generation emerges, there may be three or four of these a year. I also used an application of Neem oil spray which will cause the sawfly to drop from the bush so they can be easily gathered and disposed of. Round one for the sawfly, but round two went to me, round three and all future rounds are within my control. Thank you to William Turner.

Mushrooms can heal our bodies

Every day we fight to lose weight, eat healthy and to strengthen our bodies against all sorts of attacks from pollution, environmental and biological agents. We rely on vitamins, minerals, and the foods we eat to provide the building blocks that our immune system needs to fight the everyday sicknesses such as the common cold, flu’s and ailments, along with a myriad of deadly attacks such as heart attacks, strokes, and cancers. Yet we forget that mushrooms can be used to maintain and boost our immune system to fight the daily attacks along with assisting or even combating the most deadly of our body’s illnesses.

My Wife and I were partners of a health food store for more than seven years, over that time we became familiar with the benefits of a variety of foodstuffs that many people relied on to function in their daily lives. The value of an herbal supplement came from a variety of sources; some were as common as a garden plant and other were complex blends of ingredients from all over the world. One of those singular ingredients is the chaga mushroom (Nonotus obliquus), grown and administered in Russia as a protocol against cancer. This mushroom looks like a large knot on a tree that has been burned, most would look at it and think to them selves that it was gross; I do not want to touch that. But if you cut it off the tree, slice it thin, dry it and powder it, you can make a tea out of it or place it in capsules for use.

We know that blueberries are good for us because of their anti-oxidant capacity; they provide an ORAC scale (Oxygen Radical Absorbance Capacity) of 2500 to 6900 depending on wild or domesticated, juiced or whole. The higher the number on the Orac scale, the higher the anti-oxidant capacity. But the chaga mushroom has a value of 110,000 on the Orac scale, almost 16 times the value of blueberries.

Another mushroom worthy of your consideration is the reishi (Ganoderma lucidum), probably the most respected medicinal mushroom in Asia. Once reserved for royalty to extend life and improve health, reishi mushrooms have historically been prepared as teas or infusions, other modern preparations including capsules and tinctures. The reishi is also quite beautiful to look at, deep reddish brown and saucer-shaped, sometimes referred to as “varnished conks”. Reishi is also added to chocolate bars, candies, energy drinks, and even coffee blends.


The turkey tail mushroom (Trametes versicolor) improves the immune systems of breast cancer patients. That is the conclusion of a multiyear study, funded by the National Institutes of Health (NIH). The turkey tail mushroom assisted their immune systems, allowing them to rebound much quicker after their radiation therapy. I encourage you to take a look at the research for yourself at the link provided, make your own determination.

http://www.hindawi.com/journals/isrn.oncology/2012/251632/

It is very easy to get started with medical mushrooms; you can consume only purchasing then in tea form, capsules, or simply dried to be rehydrated and added to your normal cooking, you may grow many varieties indoors with simple spore kits, or purchase outdoor kits which can be used for inoculation of a wood chip bed or logs. Purchase from someone you can trust, you need to know your source and enjoy the taste and health benefits, your body will.

2014 Class Schedule

Weekend Classes

Due to busy schedules and the strong interest in a weekend class, Great Lakes Permaculture will be providing a weekend set of classes starting in April 5/6, 12/13, 26/27, May 3/4, 10/11. The classes will be on Saturday and Sunday of each week, from 8:30 am until 4:30 pm with a suitable time for lunch. There will not be a class on Easter weekend.

The 72 hour course covers sustainable living systems for a wide variety of landscapes and climates. It includes the application of permaculture principles to food production, home design & construction, energy conservation and generation, and explores the social and economic structures that support a culture that cares for the planet and all its inhabitants. When completed, you will receive your certificate stating that you have completed a full 72 hour PDC course.

Topics that we will cover include.

Permaculture principles
Concepts and themes in design
The local ecosystem
Forms of eco-gardening and farming
Broad scale site design
The application of specific methods, laws and principles to design
Pattern understanding
Climatic factors
Plants and trees and their energy interactions
Water, soils, earth-working and earth resources
Food forests and small animal husbandry
Zone and sector analysis
Harvest and natural forests
Aquaculture
Planning the homestead
Structures
Craftwork and chores
Equipment, tools and vehicles
Renewable energy and energy conservation
Waste management and recycling
Permaculture strategies for different climates
Urban and suburban Permaculture
Small farm and garden management and marketing
Strategies of an alternative global nation
Practical work on design

Who Could Benefit from a Permaculture Design Certificate Course?

Just about everyone! If you’re interested in learning about sustainable design, green architecture, abundant gardening, alternative building, organic agriculture, generating renewable energy, creating authentic relationships and community, learning new skills, or considering a new career or way of living, then you will get much from this course. Although there is much to be covered, we will provide all material in a fun engaging and cooperative manner.

What to Pack & Other Details: About 3-4 weeks before a training begins, students receive more information concerning what to expect, arrival details, what to pack, access to maps, etc.

Group and Personal Design projects

For all PDC trainings, students work on various design exercises and projects, individually and in small groups. This is a requirement of certification and important to help anchor the learning experience.

Personal Design Project Invitation:

If one of the reasons you as a student might be taking a PDC Course with us is to learn the skills necessary to create a Permaculture design for your own home or property, we invite you to bring information about your site to the training. For example, bring a sketch or map of your property in fairly accurate proportions and/or an aerial view, a plant list of what is on your property now (does not have to be exhaustive – what are the dominant species – place them on the sketch), note the sunny and shady parts of the property and what direction is south, and what your current dreams or visions for the property might be. We will spend time during our class schedule where individual/personal projects can be explored.

Meals:

Snacks of organic fruit, nuts, coffee, tea and water will be provided as part of the course tuition and will be available during the entire class. We will not be providing a lunch as part of the class, you are encouraged to pack a lunch or bring something to share with the class. You will also have a ability to visit one of our fine local restaurants if you so desire, we can provide a listing of the restaurants for you at the start of class.

Accommodations

If you require lodging during any part of your class, please contact us in advance. We may be able to assist you with local residents that would be open to sharing their homes with you for a small fee which we can help to arrange. Please let us know this before the start of class.

Certification:

Students who complete this design course will receive a “Certificate of Completion” from Great Lakes Permaculture which in the permaculture tradition, allows one to use the word “permaculture” in the promotion of their work or business. Graduates may offer workshops, lectures and design services.

Training Costs:

The standard course which includes the pre-course materials, all books and handouts, and guest speakers. Costs for the class are as follows.

Early registration costs $700 (registration must be made by February 14, 2014)
Standard Course $750
Senior Discount $700 (Age 62 or older)
Family Discount – $750 for the first applicant, $650 for the second, $500 for each remaining family member.
Additional discounts may be applied if you have a skill or ability to offer during the course of the class, contact me directly to discuss this. A deposit of $200 will hold your place in class, but all training must be paid for by the class start date. Payments may be made by check, money order, or Paypal.

Location – Franciscan Earth Literacy Center (FELC) – http://felctiffin.org

FELC located at 194 St. Francis Avenue, Tiffin Ohio 44883 has become home to many environmental projects which include a zero energy straw bale house project, organic gardens, wild flower and wetland projects, walking paths, and the FELC training center with it’s Permaculture renovations.

GREAT LAKES PERMACULTURE
26 Schonhardt Street
Tiffin, Ohio 44883
Phone: 419-937-5978
www.greatlakespermaculture.com
E-mail: vince@greatlakespermaculture.com

Solar Information – Lunasolcal

I am always looking for information to provide clients regarding their site specifics, sometimes at remote locations this can be quite a chore. This handy little program provides sunrise and sunset along with solar path information on a variety of smart phone platforms such as the Apple products, Android, and the Windows phones along with standard Windows PC’s. Here is the best part, the programs are called freeware, meaning they can be used for personal and commercial use and they cost nothing. So take a look at the following website for more information and to download your specific software.

Lunasolcal

And like all things, take a little time to send the company an email and thank them for providing such a program and maintaining it as freeware.

Cruck Straw Bale House

We have talked about straw bale houses before, they are energy efficient and can be easy to build depending on your preferences. I am happy to say that my youngest son Joel is planning a straw bale home in the Nashville Tennessee area. Joel is a recent permaculture design graduate that has a real love for architecture which become evident during the permaculture design class. The extremely wide eyes and erect posture was a dead giveaway.

The search for the perfect land has been ongoing, we spent the past weekend looking at lots and observing the potential for each and every site. Jokingly we discussed the name for the site, Joelandia, Joelopolis, but for the time being we have settled on Joelympus. My tasks are to provide encouragement, and to deliver a complete set of house plans for Joel to use during construction. So we have had many conversations about the house style and performance characteristics. Joel has expressed interest in a unique house design out of the UK which is called a Crucks home, receiving it’s name from the timber frame style called Crucks. The modernized plans will be based on the work of a brilliant UK designer named Brian Waite. You can read more about Brians home at Treehugger or Brian Waite

The plans must be revised to accommodate the size of US straw bale and wood along with state and local building codes. Joel plans to utilize rain water collection systems, wood and solar heat with thermal mass storage, PV solar cells, and composting toilets. We will share the details of the plans as they develop. With personal and professional regard – Vince

Rhubarb is a Heavy Feeder

One of the highlights of the Master Gardener plant sale every spring is the throng of people that parade in early on Saturday morning to get the first pick of fresh pulled rhubarb and rhubarb plants. Betty Kizer of the Seneca County Master Gardeners is definitely the queen of rhubarb in that area, masterfully handling the peoples questions on growing rhubarb and how to harvest the rhubarb, which she discourages for the first three years to allow the plants to generate enough strength in the root system to sustain repeated harvesting with restraint. Many people attending the sale learn that over harvesting and under feeding are the two main culprits to rhubarb plant failure. I can hear Betty talking, telling one after another that you need to feed rhubarb, “it’s a heavy feeder”. But why is rhubarb different than most plants, I kept the question in the back of my head until I ran across the answer in wonderful book, Roots Demystified by Robert Kourick.

This book showed a section of the roots of a rhubarb plant in figure #30 on page 60 which I have included to you, it explains that rhubarb plants can generate a massive root system, as much as eight feet wide and eight feet deep in loamy soil. As many of you know we suffer from heavy clay soil, which impedes the growth of such massive root systems, but none the less there are a few things we can do to help generate larger roots and healthier plants.

Section through rhubarb roots.

Section through rhubarb roots.

As with many plants, the older roots at the base of the stem are less important in absorption of nutrients as the young roots in other areas of the plant. As many plants do not reach the size of the behemoth shown in the illustration above, it does become critical to feed the roots in the area outside the foliage as that is where the majority of the nutrient absorption is taking place. You can create an optimum condition for root growth by feeding the ends of the roots system, helping them to explore new areas of growth, while keeping in mind that as the root system grows in size so does the nutrient requirements. So feed according, increasing the nitrogen rich fertilizer and manure compost as the total root size increases. A general rule of thumb, start from the root growth area and fertilize outward half again as large as foliage of the plant. As winter approaches, deeply mulch over the whole root system especially over the crown of the plant, this will help to protect the plant from freezing while also insulating the ground to give the root system a quicker start in the spring when the mulch is pulled away.

With personal and professional regards – Vince

An ancient fruit called figs

Figs are an ancient fruit that stir strong emotions with many immigrant groups that settled to this country, but the love of this delectable fruit goes back in time much further than a few hundred years. One of the earliest records of any fruit eaten by people of the Middle East is the common fig (Ficus carica), the fig tree possibly originated in Northern Asia according to archeological fossil records. Some records state that Spanish missionaries brought it to the United States in 1520, others indicate that Cortez introduced the fig to Mexico, while North America did not receive them until 1790 . Plato documented that Greek athletes at Olympia were fed diets of figs to increase their running speed and overall strength, which could be considered the first documented case of performance enhancements. Figs were not only revered by Christians, Jews and Moslems of the Middle East. There are at least 1,000 species of ficus in the world, mostly in tropical countries, and they are considered sacred in most cultures.

Cooked figs were used as sweeteners in ancient times and this practice is still used in many third world countries. The figs contain over 50% sugar. Hybrid figs contain many tiny seeds on the interior of the fruit, similar in taste as those found in blueberries and strawberries. A fig fruit has a round tiny opening at the base of the fig called an eye. A tiny wasp flies into the interior of the fig and pollinates the tiny flowers lining the interior walls of the fig. These tiny seeds are not generally digested by the stomach and offer a great laxative effect to the elderly sedentary citizens. In harvesting the figs, it is important to pick the fruit from the tree, when it is completely mature, usually when it sags, droops, and changes color. If the figs are taken from the tree prematurely, the sweetness declines, but more importantly, if the figs are removed in the premature state, a white milky fluid exudes from the stem, which is transferred to a person’s hands, the fluid can very irritating and should be washed away as quickly as possible.

There are many cold hardy varieties that can be grown in the Ohio area; some of the more common names you might be familiar with are Brown Turkey, Hardy Chicago, Celeste, LSU Gold, LSU Purple, and Magnolia. A couple of varieties that I am currently growing are Sal, and Sal Corleone, which originated from Sicily. But I must warn you, once you start to grow figs, you will crave additional varieties with different shapes, color, texture, and definitely taste. You will find white and yellow figs, green figs, and purple to black figs, the specific taste will vary with your local soil type, nutrient level, and weather conditions.

Fig leaves are eight to ten inches long with three or five rounded lobes. Plants are dioecious, either male or female. The sexual parts of the flower are encased inside the inflated, teardrop shaped fruit that can be as much as three inches long. In nature, a tiny wasp picks up pollen from male flowers and enters the female flowers through a small hole at the end of the fig. After pollination the insect dies inside edible fig, an enzyme called ficin breaks down her carcass into protein. The fig basically digests the dead insect, making it a part of the resulting ripened fruit.

Most of the 700 or so fig cultivars are parthenocarpic and will set fruit even without the benefit of pollination. In mild climates, most figs fruit twice a year. The first flush of flowers is born on year old branches and form what are known as “breba” figs. The main fig crop though is produced on new growth and forms later in the summer. So, even if plants freeze to the ground during winter, figs can still produce a crop. In areas with short growing seasons it may be advisable to remove any breba fruit that form because the main crop will not begin forming until the first crop matures.

The figs have many uses, such as drying the figs to be ground as a coffee substitute. In India the leaves are picked immediately after harvesting the figs so they can be used as fodder. The seeds can also be collected for extracting oil which is used for cooking or as a lubricant. Figs are also dried and ground to produce a brown sugar substitute. The white milky substance can also be collected and used for cheese making, or as a meat tenderizer. So you can see that the fig is a very versatile fruit, but most importantly a very tasty fruit that has been handed down generation to generation unlike any other fruit. I have talked with European immigrants that speak of their parents and grandparents hand carrying fig cuttings from the old country, with tears in their eyes. Their smiles brimming from ear to ear, while speaking fondly of their loved ones and the struggles they faced to get here. But as their family member’s fade away over time, they relive each memory when they look at the fig tree or taste the soft sweet flesh of the fruit.

If you have fig trees of your own, or stories of family members, I would love to hear them. Please contact me at vince@greatlakespermaculture.com, until then I wish you the best.
With personal and professional regards – Vince

Hansen Cherry Bush – Prunus besseyi

Hansen cherry bush is marketed as a delicious edible landscaping bush which can be used in many urban settings where you wan to blend in a little with the neighbors, but you still want to be creating an edible landscaping for your entire yard, or as my Wife would say, you want to look normal.

When we started to convert our yard to all edible landscaping, money is always an issue. You need more plants than you can afford, so you start to look at ways to generate more plants for the buck. Smuggling from the neighbors yard is an option, but that is for a separate article. I started to look at some of the discount plant magazines, you know the ones where you can buy one plant, buy the second one for a penny more and with every order you get a packet of free seeds that you did not want or you would have ordered them in the first place.

It is then I saw the picture for the Hansen cherry bushes, otherwise known as Prunus besseyi. Professor N.E. Hansen of the South Dakota Experiment Station developed and improved the Sand cherry, Prunus besseyi, that was marketed as the “Improved Dwarf Rocky Mountain Cherry,” with fruit growing as large as the Richmond cherry. Luther Burbank argued in his 1922 book, Fruit Improvement page 149, that this Sand cherry tree was more truly a plum tree. Whatever the case, they looked intriguing so I bought four of them for my front yard, total price of less than $6.00.

When they arrived, they were wretched looking little things. Spindly little twigs with a few leaves on them, but I always stand in for the underdog, so Cindy and I planted them with the recommended spacing in the front flower bed.
They continued to grow without too much interference, it should be noted that the bushes with the best water supply and sun are almost twice the size in diameter than the smallest bush. They are all about the same height as each other. They also tend to be spindly, not full and luscious like the marketing picture. But none the less, they have produced cherries. The first year produced nothing, the second year produced a dozen or so cherries that were a cross between a sweet and sour cherry. They could be eaten right off of the bush, which is exactly what happened to the dozen that was produced that year.

The third year was beyond our imagination. Large amounts of cherry’s hanging along the underside of the branches, dark and mysterious looking, taunting us to eat them. We did test a few for scientific reasons, but the majority of the cherries were picked withe the plan to pit them, dry some for granola and the remaining to be frozen for pies during the winter. But part way through the pitting procedure changed our minds. The cherry’s are as small as sour cherries or even slightly smaller with a full size pit. So when you try to pit them, you are left with a very small amount of fruit left to use for a pie. So we changed plans and made cherry jelly with the available fruit, the results are shown in the pictures. The cherries delivered a wonderful deep red jelly, delicious and flavorful. Cindy and I have been very pleased with the result of this little exercise.

Would I recommend Hansen cherry bushes for every yard, probably not. But I would not hesitate to use them again in as an understory plant in a fruit tree guild. They are cheap to buy, require no maintenance except a few snips of the pruner once a tear when dormant. We do not spray the bushes at all, not even with an organic spray. So I consider the bushes to be low maintenance. You should consider the bushes, but keep in mind what I have told you about their shape and fruit output, they can be a very tasty addition to an edible landscape for very little money. And I have the cherry jelly to prove it. Yummm!

Is mullein, a roadside weed or a medical marvel?

The common mullein or Verbascum thapsus L. found in the United States is a biennial (thriving for two years) plant. The herb is woolly in appearance and belongs to the Scrophulariaceae family of plants. During the first year of its existence, the large and hairy leaves of the common mullein form a rosette or a rose-shaped decoration just above the ground. In the spring of the second year, the plant gives rise to a tall stem from the leaves and it grows to a height of approximately four feet, but can grow as high as seven feet.

The first year plant is not very noticeable along the roadside, the second year the plant leaps toward the sun with a yellow flower spike at the top of a single stem. Incidentally the flower stem could be straight indicating sufficient soil nutrition, while a curved flower stem would indicate a soil deficient in one or several nutrients. Many feel the common mullein is not an attractive plant to have in your home garden, there are several variants which would enhance any garden with their colorful flowers of yellow, red, purple, and salmon, sometimes on the same plant such as the Verbascum ‘Caribbean Crush’.

Depending on the area of the country that you reside in, mullein may have many names such as adam’s flannel, beggar’s blanket, bullock’s lungwort, bonhomme, jupiter’s staff, molene, pano, sigirkuyrugu, velvet dock and velvet plant. The leaves and stem makes excellent tinder when quite dry, readily igniting on the slightest spark, and was, before the introduction of cotton, used for lamp wicks, hence it is also known as the Candlewick Plant.

The German Commission E which is the German equivalent of our Food and Drug Administration, has approved mullein flower as an expectorant and pain reliever. It combines well with other expectorants such as coltsfoot (Tussilago farfara) and Thyme (Thymus vulgaris). The dried leaves are sometimes smoked in an ordinary tobacco pipe to relieve the irritation of the respiratory mucus membranes, and will completely control, it is said, the hacking cough of consumption. Tea made from the flowers is a strong and soothing sedative. The flowers are used medicinally in the treatment of migraines and as a local antibiotic and bactericide. A poultice of the leaves is a good healer of wounds and is also applied to ulcers, tumors and piles. The juice of the plant and powder made from the dried roots removes rough warts when rubbed on them. An infusion of the flowers in olive oil is used as earache drops.

Garlic Mullein Oil

1 bulb finely chopped fresh garlic
1 ounce mullein flowers
1 pint sesame oil

Infuse in the sun for one week or you may also simmer the ingredients over the lowest flame in a double boiler for 30 minutes if you are in a hurry. Strain well through a fine wire mesh strainer lined with cheesecloth. Store the oil in a tightly covered glass jar in the refrigerator until needed.

When you are ready to use, warm the oil up a little bit before use, placing three or four drops into the ear. Massage the outer ear and around the base of the ear after applying the oil. You may also place cotton into the ear to prevent the oil from running out. Administer the warm herbal oil every 30 minutes or as often as needed until you obtain relief.

When planning your medicine chest of herbal remedies, this herb should definitely be on your list. Find a common roadside weed, or obtain of the colorful varieties to meet your needs.

With personal and professional regards – Vince