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Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Making a Dream Last

The Body of the Earth Surrounded by Sky

So far away from where you are 
These miles have us worlds apart 
And I miss you, yeah I miss you

Why would a post about Sea Buckthorn, Agroecology, and Permaculture start out with a Hallmark card to my best friend and partner in adventure over in  Afghanistan?  I hope you all have someone or two or three people who you have a strong connection.-- like the body of the earth has with the sky.

Our travels through life can be wonderful without such fortune yet so much more fun when sharing life, both the good times and the challenging times -  a friend is the most valuable gift on the planet.

The wilderness, the land, the plants and everything that growing things offer, share a gift with us as well. We can witness life in real time.  As you know, farming, especially Agroecological farming is a matrix of relationships with nature.  It is challenging, rewarding and full of personality.

Having said that, keep your eyes open, sometimes even the most unlikely combinations of people end up to be the most vibrant companions.  I appreciate my hero friend every day and look forward to his return home.

In Spite of Ourselves, We'll End Up a'Sittin' on a Rainbow

Meeting to plan and preserve access, the environment, and community in the "over the hill" area of Seboies Plantation, Maine

Foxgreen Farm is located in a sparsely populated area.  You might think that would be limiting and, fact is, it is not.  Think of it this way.  Most people living in more populated areas don't know their neighbors or even the person living in the apartment literally next door.  No so here.  People depend on each other and watch out and help almost always without even being asked.  If there were to be a problem, it is likely my neighbors know more about me than I know about myself.  Of course that is not always accurate, yet when a community has traits of an extended family, life is good. It is where all the pots of gold are stored and a rainbow isn't merely colors out of reach.  

I Thought With Something I Felt

Farming – where are we going?
Foxgreen Farm, now Foxgreen Farm, LLC is a farm carved out of the wilderness.  There are lots of very good advice books about how to choose farmland and this would not be the place.  Who looks at a hillside full of immature trees and imagines a field?  I did and it has worked well.  Sure, the expense and work of the transformation from forest to field has been a ton of work.  The result, however, is something unique.  Where else is there a "virgin" farm?  It is a clean pallet and will be protected by geography for a very long time.  The last part of the stumping out of the 5 of the 50 acres of forest is underway.
After the stumps have been pulled, shaken and moved to the edge of the field, there  is still work to be done.  Rocks, wood to be removed and leveling take time and sweat.  My machinery is limited, nearly non-existent for this type of work so I'm left with handwork.  There are many daunting tasks and a belief in one step at a time and "you don't have to get their fast, just have to get there" keeps me appreciating every rock moved and each square foot readied.
Work progressing- looking east

Looking west, cabin at top
In this area, similar to the first cleared area, my interests are first to the soil.  Sea Buckthorn is not a very picky plant when it comes to soil.  Just about the only type of soil it does not like is poorly drained or soggy areas. This area may be better suited for a combination of swales and rotational grazing combined with a poultry free range environment.  I have some planning to do.  In the meantime, I have planted an annual ryegrass for stabilization and 2 varieties of clover for a more lasting and soil building beginning.  The micro climates need to be assessed as well. 

Farming will always be intrusive upon the environment, but its purpose is to efficiently provide food that is an essential of life.  As global populations grow so does the demand for food. As time advances we will progressively become better at producing yields in this particular area.  Keep following along and I am sure some of the lessons we learn optimizing the balance of farming and the impact on the environment will be interesting. 

Stay Tuned......

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Icelandic Chickens - Save the Breed, Spread the Word! Sustainable, Permaculture, Viking Birds!

Please help by being a Team Member on this Indiegogo Campaign! 
..... ......

Tom (that's me) has worked for the past fourteen years carving out a farm in the central highlands of Maine.  
Craig is in Afghanistan risking everything to protect people and make the world a better place. He will be home early next year.
Together we will be sharing with the world a newly rejuvenated breed of chicken and create an educational research retreat deep in an ancient wilderness.
We both know the best route to a better world begins with enough food and water. Icelandic chickens are uniquely special yet they are at risk of extinction.  Please help preserve these wonderful animals and help provide and superior ancient breed for permaculture farmers around the world. 
Icelandic Chickens: 

For the Sustainable Permaculture Farm

Icelandic Chickens (Viking Chickens) are self-reliant and prefer open space to being cooped up. They forage first and only rely on purchased food a very small amount of time. Harvey Ussery, in a recent issue of Mother Earth News recounted a flock of these birds managed by his grandmother. She rarely needed to augment the diet of her birds..  Their quest for wild food was nearly all they needed. Her flock provided for her, improved the landscape and did it all for free! 
While foraging, Icelandic Chickens help with the home chores, controlling insects, making compost and tilling cover crops. They are foragers first!
Icelandic Chickens, as a breed, are in danger of being lost forever. Iceland was one of the Norse Viking's destinations.  Circa 700 A.D. the Vikings brought these birds with them to Iceland.  Nearly extinct in 1950, there are only @3000 birds left in the world.  These bloodlines are in extreme danger of being lost due to interbreeding with modern species which have had their survival skills bread out of them.  Modern birds are able to survive with intensive, artificial and inhumane intervention. Not so these "Icies".
All the birds still alive are descended from a very small group of fowl saved in the 1970's. The Icelandic chicken is significantly different genetically than modern chicken breeds. According to an interview with the former president of the Icelandic preservation association (Júlíus Baldursson), a 2004 study of blood samples from the Icelandic chicken, done in Britain, revealed that 78% of the DNA of the Icelandic chicken was unique and could not be found in any other chicken breeds in the world. 

We will not keep any other breeds of poultry. We wish to insure the purity of the Icelandic chicken genetics. We hope to provide a premier poultry resource for other sustainable agriculture farmers, large and small. 

The average factory farm chicken house cost is over $420,000 and produces a huge negative impact financially and environmentally to the farmer and the earth.  We have every finger and toe crossed a vision of sustainable, healthy poultry production will emerge from this project.  Help us multiply the knowledge we gain from our experience, improving the lives of thousands of people and the birds they care for

The Smell of a Beet (and other things)

They (beets) don't taste like dirt.

Just for fun and to prime you for a discussion on Sea Buckthorn aroma.  Beets get their earthy flavor from geosmin, an organic compound produced by microbes in the soil.  Geosmin gives off a smell like freshly plowed earth or a field after a rainstorm.  Human noses are very sensitive to geosmin. Other foods high in geosmin in include spinach, lettuce, and mushrooms.  That's a little primer for the chemical relationship to smell and food. 

The Aroma of Seaberries

The University of Turku in Finland completed an exhaustive scientific study of what aromas there were in different species of Sea Buckthorn Berries.  I read a ton of these type of papers on various topics and, believe me, unless you are a science wonk, they are difficult to digest.  Lucky for you, I am such a wonk and enjoy trying to summarize the good parts and make them interesting.  The last part of this post has to do with chickens.  Will I still be talking about odors? You'll just have to read on.  
Back to the aroma analysis of Sea Buckthorn.....  Taste has a lot to do with flavor as you well know so this is important stuff.  Of the four types of seaberries evaluated,  two were from Mongolia ("Avhustinka", and "Trofimovskaja"), one from Russia ("Raisa"), and one wild strain (subspecies ssp. sinensis).  Good to note here that the seeds and plants we offer here at Foxgreen Farm, LLC and on are of the wild strain (ssp. sinensis) variety.
How were they evaluated, what was the criteria?  Glad you asked.  
  • Total odor intensity
  • Green odor intensity
  • Fresh/Sweet odor intensity
  • Pungent odor intensity and
  • Fermented odor intesity
The cause of odors in general are, of course chemical compounds.  Are these good for you?  I'm sure there has been an analysis done on the subject but you have a nose and taste buds for a reason and I'll bet it has more to do with health than pleasure.
There were a total of 91 compounds detected as factors in Sea Buckthorn aroma.  The most were found in the wild sinenes strain. (smile)  The wild type differed most overall.  The intensity of fermented odor was stronger, it was least pungent and had a type of sweetness which was mellower.  
The study is much more detailed and explains the levels of many volatile compounds and their associated odors like sweet, strawberry, fruity, sour, even odors like mushroom, fertilizer, plastic, compost and coconut etc.  The discussion of odors separate from taste is unusual, but important in many foods.  Sea Buckthorn berries, leaves, bark and root products are in their infancy yet there has never been a more gifted plant with such potential.  So will the analysis of the odors from various types be helpful?  I think it already has since it appears the most wild and natural version of the plant seems to be the most diverse. 

Follow your nose.

Myself (Tom) and Craig, who is still in Afghanistan are about to launch a Indiegogo campaign.  We would like your help.  The Icelandic Chicken or "Viking Chicken" may be one of the most endangered and most useful chicken to temperate permaculture farms.  Please become a team member on the project and share the effort with the world.  If you would like to join our team on this project please fill out the form here.  Thanks !!!


Saturday, September 27, 2014

Edge of Endless

Foxgreen Farm and jiovi Agroecology

As you can see, if that's nowhere, Foxgreen Farm is in the middle of it.  Fourteen years ago, while looking for a place where infinity was the rule,  I threw three stones at the stars and the whole sky fell right here, our edge of endless is in the middle of nowhere.
The wilderness has its wonders and challenges.  Seaberry production seems to be a successful choice for wilderness locations.  The 500 plants were planted 15 months ago in a newly created field in the middle of the wilderness.  Just to recap a bit.  This particular forest was clear cut about 30 years ago. It is regenerating nicely and the baseball field shaped field was created about 6 months before the Seaberry plants found their new experimental home.

What existed before the field was a jumble of trees which sprouted from the cut bases of the original and much larger hardwood trees.  It was a thicket of thin trees, tightly spaced and in desperate need of thinning or, in this case, cut, chipped and recycled into a new grass habitat.  A grass based habitat for many species including male and female Seabuckthorn Plants!
Initial Seabuckthorn planting May 2013

Part of the wilderness Seabuckthorn Orchard experiment is to see how the plants integrate with the existing plants, animals, microbes and insects.  So far, so good.  Last year I talked about some damage from grasshoppers and Japanese Beetles.  This year there was nearly no damage at all from those pests.  A couple of likely reasons.  One is that the plants are settling in and less stressed.  Stressed plants send out chemical signals which turn make the chewing insects think they are smelling BBQ or lobsters boiling and they feast on those leaves sending out the stress signals.
The other likely reason is there has been a number of wild turkeys feasting on grasshoppers and beetles.  They have eaten thousands and thousands of them!

The moose have not bothered the bushes at all.  There are deer in the area as well and they have not chosen to browse the bushes either.  It could be the thorns that are providing the protection or maybe they just have not yet figured out this potential food source.
Taken on the farm a week ago
As part of the ethics of Permaculture, caring for the earth is a big and important goal.  Craig and I are investigating "companion" uses for the permaculture/seaberry farm.  Sadly the roadkill of mother moose leaves orphaned baby moose in a difficult situation.  

 We are investigating including a wildlife rescue for these animals.  Our 100+ acres of wilderness would be a perfect transition place for these saved baby moose.  Stay tuned.

Sunday, August 31, 2014

Even the Rhrong Words Seem to Rhyme

Can Permaculture stem radical extremism?

Something sparked my interest recently in a "new perspective" sort of way.  On the face of it, I'll admit this, at first, sounds a bit too far afield to be worth even a moment to consider.  After all- The problems are complicated, violent, and getting much worse.  Why?  Is it God, or Allah,who has the influence on  the desperate, deprived, and dying among us?  Or is it really and simply; food and water?

 Current Human Extremist Hotspots - Middle East / South Asia

Current Desertification of the Land- Middle East / South Asia

 The coincidence of inabilities of populations to be able to wake up everyday and have the possibility of making a better life for themselves and their families is a problem.  Food and water predicates education.  It is the foundation which everything good is built on.  These boys in Afghanistan were orphaned and are under the care of an organization which combines permaculture practice and education alongside attempting to provide the most basic requirements to sustain life. 
boys eating apples
Unfortunately, there are gods.  Christian, Muslim, etc., etc. They are still alive and still creating a mess all around the world.  Such an old and tired story.  Alive? Of course, right?  Gods are immortal and do not die. Not true, they expire when no one believes any longer.  There are hundreds of them.  Take a look at just the Greek funeral procession.  What happened to the Roman Gods?  The Romans increasingly became under the spell of some borrowed God who sounded like particularly bad news.  Worse, this Semantic deity was reputed to be jealous, vindictive, and altogether foul tempered.  If you didn't serve the nasty fellow, the Romans would burn your house down.  If you did serve him, you were called Christians and got to burn other people's houses down.  From Apollo to Vortumnus, the Roman Gods expired.  What would it take to banish today's frat house of Gods?  Maybe the answer is still having the ability to grab an apple off of a tree and bite into it.

Friday, August 22, 2014

A letter about Seaberry Plants 8.21.2014


I am in northern Wisconsin.  I had two plants but they struggle to make it.   Do you know what the growing conditions are also where can I but a number of plants for a reasonable cost? male and female?

Hi Paul,
Sorry it took a few days to get back to you.   If the plants you are having the trouble with are ones which were purchased as rooted cuttings, this is a common problem.  The upside is that they are specific varieties and you know the sex of the plant from the start.  The downside is that they are much more prone to death in the first few years.  
I sell bare root plants in the spring and seeds all year long.  Seeds work well and aren't difficult to grow if you take basic care of them.  The time between planting and fruit production is 3-5 years from seed.  Bareroot plants cut that time frame by at least 2 years, maybe more.  The plants I sell are not sexed, meaning you will not know if you have a male or female until they blossom and/or bear fruit.  I suggest when buying these type of plants, you buy a few so the chances of having both sexes is very good.  Prices:  The varietal/sexed plants available from retail nurseries are $20-28.00 each while bare root plants are much less expensive.  I was able to obtain and sell about 1000 plants like this last spring and hope to have a similar amount this coming spring.  Very soon I will be setting up a way for people to pre-order, so keep checking the blog, sign up for email updates so you will known when that is available.  
Thanks for your email and question.  --Tom

Oh, the growing conditions.  The climate in Wisconsin is perfect.  Soil conditions are not much of a concern as long as it is not waterlogged. Treat bare root or other transplanted seabuckthorn plants as you would any other.  Water is important until they become established.  Fertilize sparingly and not at all after they are established.  A product like Azomite for micro-nutrients is a good idea especially if other things you have planted have struggled in that spot.  Nothing is better that a good soil test to determine exactly what you might need, but I realize most people do not go to that trouble.  Good Luck!

Some posts here related to this topic:

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Back on Top

Here I Stand

Yes, here I stand in front of one of the original 500 Seaberry plants in Seboeis Plantation Maine.  It has been in this ground for 14 months.  The passage of time has been favorable.  Most of the plants are very healthy. There are a few casualties and those mainly are the result of mice chewing and girdling the bark on the plants under the 7-10 feet of snow which covered the ground over the winter.  I could tell you I don't like those mice and that would be true.  Even so this article in the Journal of Ethnopharmacology (click), makes me think and smile a bit thinking about those mice.  Sea Buckthorn bark contains a significant amount of serotonin, sort of a happy chemical.  More specifically a mood balancing brain chemical which, when deficient could lead to depression.
Mother nature can be brutal.  We know that.  Sometimes she does the strangest things and even fewer times she surprises.  Those mice had a good winter.   So did some of the other plants here at Foxgreen Farms.  
These are Egyptian Onions or Walking Onions.  They are extremely hardy and prolific.  They have the unusual ability to produce bulblets at the top of the stalk and when the little bulbs increase in weight, the stalk bends to the ground and the new bulb takes root.  
This is a nice stand of Yarrow, another super hardy plant.  Yarrow is a long stemmed member of, believe it or not, the sunflower family.  It grows wild throughout the Northern Hemisphere.  Native Americans used a ton of it.  The Micmac tribe chewed or stewed the stalk to induce sweating to break fevers and colds.  They also pounded it into a pulp and applied to bruises, sprains and swelling.  I am a decedent of this tribe.  It originated not far from here in Seboeis.  As the story goes, there was a great, great, great, great grandfather or something close to that (I'll call him Hugh) who was alone with his fellow exploring companions for one hundred and five days.  The Micmac woman watched secretly and decided to approach my ancestor. Honestly I don't know how they did that back then without the internet and texting but it happened anyway.  

Greek myth tells of Achilles painting himself with a tincture of yarrow to make himself invulnerable to arrows. It worked but he missed a spot.  You guessed it, his heel.

Today it often is prepared as a tea and in addition to the Indian uses is said to be beneficial as a relaxant and helps with dry skin. 

 Shrimp with Yarrow and Baked Lemon

3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon minced garlic
3 lemons
6 tablespoons sugar
2 tablespoons chopped fresh yarrow leaves, plus a few sprigs for garnish
24 large shrimp–shelled, deveined and cut almost in half lengthwise down the back
Cayenne pepper

1. Preheat the oven to 450° and light the grill, if you”re using one. In a small bowl, stir together the olive oil and garlic. 2. Cut the pointed ends from the lemons so they will sit flat, then halve them crosswise. Set them flesh side up in a glass or ceramic baking dish and spoon 1 tablespoon of the sugar on each half. Bake for 10 to 15 minutes, or until the sugar is melted and the pulp is soft. Preheat the broiler, if using.

2. Sprinkle the chopped yarrow inside the shrimp and pinch closed. Brush the shrimp with the garlic oil and season with salt and cayenne. Grill or broil the shrimp 2 to 3 minutes per side, or until opaque. Squeeze some of the lemon juice over the shrimp and garnish with the yarrow sprigs. Serve at once with the baked lemons.



Admitted Daily Happiness Double-Play -   Sometimes lots to do and not enough time is a catalyst to success. I've been working way too much at my ordinary job and double-time at the passions which fill the best parts of every day.  That pretty much describes Craig too.  Coffee sales an seed sales have been going well. Forest farm seed sales are good too.  Sea Buckthorn is, still, by far the most popular.  We have a collection of seeds available at a great value price. See -  And don't forget to have some fun visiting  We haven't put together a 3 pound combo-collection yet at a special price, but if you want to choose 3 different or the same variety, I'll take care of the shipping costs for you.  Just go to the contact page - and let us know which 3 types you want (1lb bags each) and we will send you an online invoice for $45.00 (shipping included).  Craig is still very much missed while he is in Afghanistan.  (By the way, Fartbox Coffee is a huge hit with the soldiers)

If you have read this far along in this post, close your eyes for a moment and wish him well.  There are a lot of people over there trying their best in a dangerous place.  They all deserve your good thoughts.

jiovi Agro-Ecology
Food Forest Seed Collection!  See collection contents below-------
Why Grow an Edible Forest Garden?
While each forest gardener will have unique design goals, forest gardening in general has three primary practical intentions:

  • High yields of diverse products such as food, fuel, fiber, fodder, fertilizer, 'farmaceuticals' and fun;
  • A largely self-maintaining garden and;
  • A healthy ecosystem.
These three goals are mutually reinforcing. For example, diverse crops make it easier to design a healthy, self-maintaining ecosystem, and a healthy garden ecosystem should have reduced maintenance requirements. However, forest gardening also has higher aims.

As Masanobu Fukuoka once said, "The ultimate goal of farming is not the growing of crops, but the cultivation and perfection of human beings." How we garden reflects our worldview. The ultimate goal of forest gardening is not only the growing of crops, but the cultivation and perfection of new ways of seeing, of thinking, and of acting in the world. Forest gardening gives us a visceral experience of ecology in action, teaching us how the planet works and changing our self-perceptions. Forest gardening helps us take our rightful place as part of nature doing nature's work, rather than as separate entities intervening in and dominating the natural world.
Contains - 
  1. Rose Hips - (Dog Rose- Rosa Canina) 50+ extra seeds 
  2. Yellowhorn Shrub (Xanthoceras sorbifolia) - 5 seeds
  3. Siberian Pea Shrub (Caragana arborescens)- 50+ extra seeds
  4. Rocky Mountain Elderberry *Rare*(Sambucus melancarpa)- 100+ extra seeds
  5. Red Ederberry (Sambucus racemosa) - 100+ extra seeds
  6. Blue Elderberry (Sabucus caerulea) - 100+ extra seeds
  7. Bearberry Seeds (Arctostaphylos uva-ursi) - 50+ extra seeds
  8. Seabuckthorn (Hippophae rhamniodes) - 40+ extra seeds

Price if purchased individually including shipping is over $42.00.  Collection Price $29.50!  Save over 25%

About Us

My Photo
Craig and Tom have become soul-mates of sorts and will be engaged for a long time connecting the wilderness, ourselves, and others in a new pre-oil agroecology. We promise, as we build this newer way of living, to experiment and explore, share and invite, smile and embrace, and support each other, the land, and we invite you to come along with us. Good people, gardens, nature, wilderness, exploration, sailing and art are all #1 with us. "If you want to sing out, sing out. If you want to be free, be free." Learn something new everyday and life is good.