Many years ago, there was a biologist, philosopher, and farmer in Japan who had a novel way of approaching his work on the land. Instead of asking what he could do to make his farm and gardens more productive, he asked what he could not do. He was interested not in what actions he could take, but more in what he was doing that was getting in the way of productivity by disrupting ecological cycles.
For a full 70 years, from 1938 until his death in 2008, Masanobu Fukuoka proved in his own gardens and fields that, with a bit of design and ecological understanding, you can get higher yields with much less work compared to traditional production methods.
During that time, and since, other movements of more natural food production have increased in popularity as well, from different organic techniques like integrated pest management, to permaculture and ecological design, to agroforestry. All of them share one principle in common: let nature do the work whenever possible.
The plants, the animals, and the soil food web have evolved for hundreds of millions of years without human intervention, and they got along just fine. It is directly from these miraculous relationships that stabilize natural ecosystems that we can learn how to boost productivity and limit the work we need to do in the garden.
The following myths that create more work in the garden are a good place to start:
Myth #1: Watering a Lot is Good
Although watering garden plants is usually not something you can eliminate completely in most places (especially during establishment), there are many ways you can limit or almost completely eliminate watering. First and foremost is the concept that the best place to store water is in the soil. One of the best ways to increase your soil’s water holding capacity is to add organic matter, since for every 1 per cent of organic matter that is added, the soil can hold 20,000 more gallons of water per acre.
Earth work projects such as swales can also dramatically increase water infiltration and thus the water content of the soil (just make sure to learn more first and that your landscape is suitable for swales), as can planting trees and other deep rooted perennials, especially on high points in the landscape.
Another important way to keep water in the soil is to mulch heavily, using at least 4-6 inches of mulch, which will both prevent water evaporation, while also boosting soil life, which in turn increases organic matter production while creating “soil aggregates” that help to maintain moisture and nutrients.
Other water optimization tips include using drip irrigation, and being careful not to water deep rooted plants too sparsely, too often, which can lead to the plant keeping its roots close to the soil surface without developing deeper roots for water independence.
Myth #2: Fertilizing a Lot is Good
Similar to water, fertilizing too often, and with the wrong kinds of fertilizers, can also be a bad thing. Popular chemical fertilizers on the market can in fact disrupt soil food webs, leading to the need to fertilize more often.
Instead, doing a soil test to see what nutrients are missing, and then treating the problem more intelligently with organic fertilizers, will yield better long-term results. Remember, you’re feeding your soil and its microorganisms, and if you take care of the soil, the soil will take care of the plants.
Myth #3: Spraying Pesticides is Necessary
Whenever you spray pesticides, you’re not only killing the pest, but also its predators, leading to an ongoing battle that can never be won. For one thing, pests are developing resistance to pesticides.
Instead, create a diverse ecosystem of plants with plenty of predator habitat such as logs, shrubs, mulch, and ponds. Research the pests you’re having problems with to identify what eats them, find out what those predators need, and give it to them. The book Edible Forest Gardens, vol. 2 by Dave Jacke contains a handy section on predator needs, along with extensive information on designing low work gardens in general.
Myth #4: Lots of Weed Control is Necessary
Weed control such as tilling, weeding, and herbicide application can largely be a thing of the past. Planting more densely, planting groundcovers and cover crops, sheet mulching and solarizing to prepare garden beds, and using a lot of mulch in general will lead to much less weed competition for your plants.
Tilling for weed control not only destroys your soil’s structure, which decreases water and nutrient holding capacity, but also stirs up and encourages weed seed germination. No till farmers have known for many years now that tilling is a losing battle leading to poorer and poorer quality soil each year. This is especially true if tilling doesn’t involve using cover crops to the mix to add lost organic matter and nutrients back into the soil.
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Slow Cooker Smothered Chops
Prep Time: 15mn
Cook Time: 8hr
Total Time: 8hr 15mn
4 bone-in pork chops, about 3/4 inch thick seasoned with salt and pepper on each side
4 slices bacon, cut into small pieces
2 tablespoons canola oil
1 large yellow onion, cut into 1/2 inch thick slices
1/4 cup water
2 tablespoons water
1 tablespoon brown sugar
2 teaspoons minced garlic
3 cups low-sodium chicken stock
2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
2 bay leaves
1 tablespoon corn starch
1 tablespoon cider vinegar
1 teaspoon dried parsley
Pat the pork chops dry with paper towels, then season both sides with salt and pepper.
Cook bacon over medium high heat until crispy. Remove the bacon from the pan with a
slotted spoon and transfer to a paper-towel lined plate to drain, then store it in the fridge until later.
There should be about 2 tablespoons of bacon drippings in the pan, just eyeball it. If it doesn’t look like
there’s enough, add a little canola or vegetable oil and increase the heat to high. If there’s more
than 2 tablespoons of bacon drippings in the pan, drain some off until you’re left with 2 tablespoons.
Add the pork chops to the pan and cook for two to three minutes per side, until they are nicely browned.
Transfer the browned pork chops to the slow cooker.
Add a small amount of oil to the pan if there is no remaining fat/oil, about a teaspoon. Add the onions,
a pinch of salt, and 1/4 cup water and cook until the onions are translucent. Use a wooden spoon to scrape
up the browned bits of pork chop on the bottom of the pan.
Add in garlic and cook for another minute. Pour this mixture over the pork chops.
To the skillet combine chicken stock, worcestershire sauce and brown sugar and bring to a boil. Pour over pork chops.
Add bay leave to the slow cooker and cook on low for 7-8 hours, until the pork chops are tender.
Discard the bay leaves and carefully remove the pork chops from the slow cooker and transfer to a plate. Cover with foil
Pour the liquid from the slow cooker through a fine mesh strainer into a large saucepan. Place the solids in a blender,
and add in 1 cup of the liquid from the saucepan. Blend on high until smooth. Pour this mixture back into the saucepan
and heat to medium high heat.
In a small bowl combine 2 tablespoons water with 1 tablespoon corn starch. Pour this mixture into the sauce pan cook
for about 5 minutes, until the sauce has thickened and is bubbly.
Stir in the vinegar, add in the bacon, and season with salt and pepper to taste.
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- 2lbs – 80/20 Ground Chuck
- 1/2 Cup – Bread Crumbs
- 1 – Egg
- ½ Cup – Milk
- 1 tsp – Salt
- 1 tsp – Black Pepper
- 2 TBS – Dried Minced Onion
- 1 TBS – Beef Base
- 2 TBS – Worcestershire Sauce
- 2- Medium Yellow Onions (chopped or sliced)
- 2 Cups – Sliced Mushrooms (not in video recipe)
- 4 Cups – Water
- 2 TBS Corn Starch – 2 TBS Water to make slurry.
- In a large bowl combine egg, milk, bread crumbs, Worcestershire, dried onions, black pepper, and salt. Mix well.
- Add ground beef and mix until well incorporated and form into oval patties, burger or meatballs,
- In a large skillet over medium heat brown for 2 minutes per side and remove from pan.
- Add onions and mushrooms and saute 2-3 minutes.
- Add water and beef base, bring to a boil until the beef base is dissolved.
- Return patties to the skillet, return to a simmer, cover and cook on low for 1 hour.
- Add corn starch slurry, mix until smooth and the gravy has thickened.
– 2 pounds ground beef
– 2 Tbs Worcestershire Sauce divided
– 2 eggs
– 1/2 Cup bread crumbs ( I used crushed Ritz crackers
– 1 tspn garlic powder
– 1 tspn onion powder
– 2 tspn salt
– 1 tspn pepper
– 1 tspn dried thyme
– 2 Tbs red wine
– 8 ounces butter
– 1 medium onion diced
– 2 Tbs flour
– 3 ounces tomato paste
– 1 beef bouillon cube crushed
– 2 cups beef stock
– 8 ounces of sliced baby bella mushrooms
1. In a large bowl thoroughly combine bread crumbs, garlic powder, onion powder, salt, pepper, 1 Tbs of Worcestershire sauce, and eggs to ground beef.
2. Form 8 salisbury steak patties.
3. In a large skillet over medium to medium/high heat add 3 Tbs of butter.
4. Add 4 patties and allow to sear for 5 minutes per side.
5. Remove patties and set aside, discarding any excess grease left in the pan.
6. Repeat steps 3, 4, and 5 for remaining patties.
7. Add 2 Tbs of butter to skillet.
8. Add onions and sautè until translucent.
9. Add flour to onions and cook 3 to 4 minutes stirring often.
10. Add tomato paste and stir for 30 seconds.
11. Add wine and 1 Tbs Worcestershire Sauce and stir.
12. Add mushrooms and stir for 1 minute.
13. Add beef broth, crushed beef bouillon cube, and thyme and stir.
14. Bring to a boil.
15. Add salisbury steak patties to mushroom gravy.
16. Reduce heat to a simmer and cover skillet for 15 minutes turning patties once if so desired.
17. SERVE AND ENJOY! 🙂
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