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Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Edible Plants: Elderberry

Blanche always does a great job explaining her subjects.  Here she is on elderberries.  There is one comment I would like to add. My experience is elderberries do not like wet feet.  Very damp is ok, but not in standing.
jiovi permaculture nursery

Friday, April 22, 2016

Turkey Tail Mushrooms, The Hidden Health Benefits

The Hidden Health Benefits of Turkey Tail Mushrooms
Kaitlin Krull

Origin and information
Trametes versicolor, or the Turkey Tail mushroom, is a woodland fungus that gets its common name because its colorful, fanned top looks more or less like a turkey’s tail. The Turkey Tail is one of the most common woodland fungi, found predominantly in forests and wooded areas throughout North America, Europe, and Asia. Usually found on dead trees, logs, and stumps, this mushroom helps to decompose wood and bring nutrients back to the earth.

In addition to its environmental properties, there are several significant health benefits for people who are brave enough to safely consume Turkey Tail mushrooms. With medical origins in both Chinese and Japanese herbalist practices, this fungus can be brewed as a tea and consumed other ways in order to combat a host of ailments, including chronic pain and other recurring illnesses, including cancer.

Top medical uses for Turkey Tail mushrooms
Although the use of natural ingredients such as mushrooms is not currently FDA approved, Turkey Tail mushrooms are increasingly used to fight off illnesses by those interested in Eastern medicine and other unconventional health practices. At Modernize, we were intrigued by their growing popularity and wanted to find out more. Here are just a few of the many current medicinal uses for Turkey Tail mushrooms.

The primary and most popular use of Turkey Tail mushrooms is for cancer patients, specifically those undergoing chemotherapy. Many patients agree that consuming this fungus not only alleviates the negative side effects of chemotherapy, but also increases the efficacy of chemotherapy for a variety of types of cancer. This is because of the presence of the polysaccharide K, commonly referred to as PSK, in Turkey Tail mushrooms. This carbohydrate is thought to lessen pain and boost the immune system. Although not yet approved by the American FDA (although clinical trials began in 2012), the use of PSK has been endorsed by the Japanese Health and Welfare Ministry for over 30 years for this particular reason.

In addition to boosting the immune system during chemotherapy and alleviating pain in cancer patients, it is thought that Turkey Tail mushrooms may also be able to fight off viral liver diseases such as Hepatitis B and other viral illnesses. This is because, at the cellular level, Turkey Tail mushrooms contain strong anti-viral properties. When ingested, the cells from the fungi attack the viral cells in patients’ bodies and may even prevent the development of cancerous cells.

Although much more research needs to be done in order to clarify the specific medicinal properties of Turkey Tail mushrooms, it is widely accepted that these fungi strengthen immunity and help promote healthy living. For this reason, health food stores and other retailers currently sell Turkey Tail capsules that can be taken as daily supplements. Claiming to promote positive liver function and boost the immune system, these kinds of products are the modern equivalent to a hot, brewed mug of Turkey Tails. Whether or not you believe the hidden health benefits of Turkey Tail mushrooms, their popularity has grown exponentially over the last several hundred years and thousands of people support their healthy claims.

Monday, April 18, 2016

Oregon State University - Free Online Permaculture Course

Permaculture course description:

Permaculture design is a method of landscape planning that can be applied to anything, from a home garden or farm to a city block or entire village. This free permaculture course uses design principles from nature itself and takes into account such things as how indigenous people used the land; how water, fire and wind flow through the land; and how soil, water, vegetation, buildings and habitats can be managed in a stable and enduring way.

A multidisciplinary approach

Permaculture design is an ethically based, whole-systems design approach to create sustainable human settlements and institutions. Although rooted in horticulture and agriculture, permaculture design also touches on regional planning, ecology, animal husbandry, technology, architecture and international development.

Learning outcomes

In this free permaculture course, you will learn about the process, ethics and principles of permaculture design while diving into climate-specific design elements through interactive technology, videos, graphics, and readings. The course is designed to benefit everyone regardless of your learning style, time commitments or available technology.

Students who complete all course activities should expect to spend between two to four hours each week on course work.

Permaculture questions and discussion


Quite often we receive letters on a variety of subjects.  Answering them is fun and sharing them sometimes is a good thing.  Here is another one. 

We live in NW New Mexico, in zone 4b-5a (elevation: 7000 ft); it snowed 6 inches yesterday/this morning.  Our soil PH is about 7.5, and I use the term “soil” loosely, as it’s quite nutrient poor (love the high desert climate; its soil … well … it’s a challenge).   We moved onto our homestead property last April, and got do to a bit of gardening last year (although it was late to be starting seeds; I couldn’t resist).  Veggies and herbs did pretty well, poor soil considered, until they were eaten by elk in the early fall.  All in all, last year was “the year of observation” to learn the sun, wind, water, etc. patterns;  we’ve selected a site and are now moving forward with the first steps of our orchard/food forest.   We’re looking at the big picture: a long-term orchard for our own consumption and food preservation, pollen producers for future bees (next couple of years), possible food production for chickens (arriving next month) and wildlife.  We found a year-round spring directly adjacent to our property, which accounts for the bear, elk, mountain lions, coyotes, rabbits, turkeys, owls, hawks, and you-name-it living on the property.
While obviously I’m able/willing to do some soil amendment and such, I’d ultimately like to create a sustainable situation without pretending I live in zone 7, have dark, rich, Midwestern-US soil, and that it rains a lot here.  Bottom line is that we’ve got high desert temperature fluctuations, poor native soil, an average last-hard-frost date of May 25, and an average growing season of 130 days.  I feel sorry for, but refuse to emulate, those in our community who cry about their apple, peach, almond, etc. trees “blooming pretty” but failing to produce fruit year after year.

Sorry for the rambling, but I wanted you to sort of get a picture of our situation.  We’re looking at Jiovi’s food forest plants collections, and keep coming back to collection #3.  What are your thoughts about those plants given our location/situation?  I’m also considering buying some goji seeds to germinate and grow indoors until planting them outside next spring.  I’ve got a south-facing passive solar wall of windows, in which I successfully grew (and harvested!) tomatoes, cucumbers, strawberries and lemons all winter, so they should be pretty happen inside until hardened off and planted outside.  I am lucky, indeed, but want to think hard about starting the food forest so that I have a maximum success.
Many thanks,


8:15 AM (4 minutes ago)
Hi from jiovi and Foxgreen Farms,

You have some challenges.  We have them too.  About 12 miles from the on-grid farmhouse, the "wilderness" location of Foxgreen Farms has poor soil and a similar climate.  After removing the trees and shaking all the stumps to save what soil there was, I planted a field mix of grasses and clover.  I would skip the grass in the future except for annual varieties.  That all depends on your future use.  The clover does more to  build the soil and the grasses can get weedy.  Having said that their roots are fibrous and repeated cutting of it all is building the soil. You could always plant grasses later if you want forage. Not sure if you have access to wood chips cheap.  If you do they are great to use for mulch and biomass the fungus/mushroom/worm love.  

The plants.  All of the plants in the collection are good for your area regarding zone temps.  The elderberries, seaberries, nanking cherries, and service/juneberries can all take a little shade.  Not too much but a partial day is fine.  The others like full sun best.  As far as bee forage, the black locust might be a good addition.  Here is a great resource for bee forage  Black locust is highly rated.  

For chickens, the siberian pea is one they like.  Honey locust too.  The honey locust isn't as good for bees but it has all the other qualities black locust has, except for the honey potential.  It does have far more use when it comes to food production for people (small pods) and especially animals.  It's very productive.  

As far as animals, my challenge is moose.  Having said that, they don't do too much damage and definitely have preferences.  There are tons of ideas about deer etc protection in the garden.  One of the best things is to change-up the site.  They don't like differences, it spooks them and as long as there is food other places, they will choose not to be where they are uncomfortable.  A dog being around helps.  Just it's presence is good, it doesn't need to be out at night.  The other thing is placing, say, 5 gal buckets around and moving them randomly to different spots.  Again, the new things in the animal's eyes makes them uncomfortable.  I think I might set up a clothesline type thing or two, and hang buckets and some reflective tape.  I could just slide them up and down the line.  That in combination with a solar or battery powered motion light or two might help a lot.  Those things wouldn't be as effective when they are super hungry in the fall and winter.  

Another animal problem we have had in the past is mice.  Deep snow over a long period has them tunneling on the ground surface and they can chew a ring around the tree/shrub.  A hardware cloth ring, tree tube, or a spray made from garlic and hot pepper works.  The garlic and hot pepper needs to be reapplied so if the snow is deep, that wouldn't be practical in the winter.  

The only other thing I can think of is enhancing a habitat away from your plants they like.  When I thin the forest or clear a field, I keep in mind the sun and new sprouts from the stumps.  More of them and, again, the animal will prefer to stay away and eat that stuff.  

It's always a good idea to test the soil so you know, in detail, what it needs.  As you know, soil farming is the key to everything doing well.  Once the soil has the biomass and dampness it needs it is largely self regulating.  Consider having lots of comfrey growing.   Chickens like it, it is a bioaccumulator, and multiplies like crazy....a good thing for such a useful plant. 

I am just thinking of the top of my head so I hope I have helped some.  One of my goals for jiovi plants is to have them specifically successful in cold climates.  The only one which is still a question mark in my area (zone 4-5) is the Paw Paw.  I think it will survive but the fruit production might be minimal.  

The collection is a good one.  If you want to adjust it in any way.... add plants, change plants, etc.  send me another email with what you want.  I'll price it out with as much of a discount as the collections have or more.  I would be glad to customize it for you.  Keep me up to date on your efforts and adventure.  All the Best - Tom

Sunday, April 17, 2016

A Visit to the Vinyard

Have you asked yourself "Can I grow wine grapes in my climate?".   The varieties here are all extremely hardy.  They are great in zones 3 through 7.  Are your winter temperatures below -40 degrees?  Probably not.  So the answer is yes you can grow high quality grapes in your area.  
The photos below are of a visit to our grape grower in the middle of April.  It is a beautiful place and our relationship with them is one we hope to have for many years.  

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Seabuckthorn buds in the spring. Updated. Originally published April 2014

Five Horizons of Appreciation!

All around me I am thankful for the new warmth of the air and land.  The fifth horizon, the one of stars and skies and of friends and contemplation are gaining strength as well. 

Sea Buckthorn Spring Buds

Some time ago Mont-Echo answered a question for me about Sea Buckthorn buds.  I asked if there was anyway to tell the sex of a plant by the winter buds.  She said that often, but not always, the male buds are larger.  I did some observation on the plants I have here in Mansfield and it seems to have proven to be true. The buds haven't fully matured yet, but yes, the plants with the larger buds over the winter seem to be developing the signature male flower "purses".  The female plants do not show any signs of flowers yet and that is understandable.   Even fully flowering buds are nearly invisible.  They are very small.  
Here are a few photos I took today.
Male spring buds with round "purse-like" flowers (unopened)
Taken same day, different plant.  Buds on female Sea Buckthorn


Another potential female plant
This one is sort of inbetween looking, I vote for female.  Close up below.

Male Seaberry buds in very early Spring.

Himalayan Seeds

I was very lucky recently to obtain some seaberry seeds from the Himalayas.  I have just planted some and will update as they germinate!
Here they are.......

Plant Sales:

Plant sales have been very good.  The next ship date is April 19th. 
All these are available by clicking here or typing into your browser. 

A Couple of Other Thank You's

Doug Wallace left a nice comment recently.  I hope to review his work soon, but in the meantime visit The Gaia Health Blog  it has lots of great information.  
I also want to thank Carl from Quebec.  I hope we can work together promoting the value of Seabuckthorn in both our countries!

Sunday, April 10, 2016

Letters, Questions, Answers- Permaculture Plants

Starting Seaberry Seeds

Glad the seeds arrived in good condition. Soaking is not necessary.
There have been a number of studies documenting the effects of soaking and the results are germination speed is only a day or two quicker. Not really worth the extra step, but it is an option. If chosen, I recommend a 24 hour soak.
Sow the seeds in a soil-less sterile mixture of vermiculite and peat moss. (ordinary bagged seed starting soil) at a depth of @ 1/2 cm. They should emerge in about 10 days. Normal care should be taken as you would any seedlings started indoors. Since the number of seeds ordered are many and I don't know what facilities are at your disposal, I will expand a bit with more technical information for the professional.
These stratified Seabuckthorn seeds can be seeded indoors in pots in a vermiculite/peat moss mixture (40:60). The containers are placed in a greenhouse with a 16 hour photo-period at a temperature range between 25-27C and a 70-90% relative humidity.
Germination will occur in @10 days.
Immediately following germination and prior to the formation of true leaves, an application of fungicide may be necessary to control seedling damping-off. I have had very little problem with this. Cinnamon application may be a good preventative.
Maximum growth may be obtained by using bright full-spectrum fluorescent or hi-pressure sodium lighting. A soluble starter fertilizer (10-52-10 N_P_K) should be applied with each irrigation for the first 3 weeks following planting. After this, a complete soluble fertilizer (20-20-20, N_P_K) is applied in the same manner. Feel free to use comparable organic solutions.
A moderate amount of air circulation is recommended. Seedlings should be acclimated (hardened off)before transplanting. Do this as early as possible-exposing them to the sun and elements, they like it very much.
One seedling per pot should be allowed to grow for 3 months before transplantation to the field. In light sandy soil the root is buried 6-8 cm deep to encourage the development of another tier of roots and the new seedlings should be watered as required.
High density planting in the field can be 3ft x 3 ft. More commonly the rows are planted with plants 3ft apart and 12ft between rows. Think about this carefully. The type of equipment you will use to cut the grass between rows and between plants should be considered to make maintenance of your orchard easier.
I know that's a lot of information. For the person with a green thumb, there are some good suggestions. Not to worry though if all the details are not followed exactly. As with any young plant (or animal for that matter), infancy is a time in which care should be taken and neglect carefully avoided.
I look forward to hearing how they do. Please let me know.
All the Best - Tom

If I buy unsexed seaberry plants.....

Hello Ben,
To answer your question, yes, if you get two you could get a male and a female. My experience is that approximately 70% of the plants turn out to be female. It is a game of chance however. If I were you, I would get a few more to increase the odds you end up with both sexes. Personally I would be more comfortable with at least 4 plants. You can buy sexed plants online from a few different places. is one. The cost is at least double and the plants are propagated from cuttings. My experience is that they are much more difficult to grow since the roots aren't as robust as ones grown from seed. That is basically the choices you have acquiring Hippophae rhamnoides plants. One other thing I personally like with the plants grown from seed is that they are open-pollinated and genetically variable so susceptibility to environmental stresses isn't as risky as a mono-crop type of planting. Hope this answer helps, Let me know if you have any other questions. Thanks - Tom

Are Multiple varieties of Seabuckthorn required for pollination?

Hi Patrick,
You don't need multiple varieties. What you do need is a male and a female. Seaberry plants are either one or the other. There may be an advantage to having a few different male varieties that bloom at slightly different times to have your bases covered. That advice mostly if for people who buy varietal plants which are propagated by cuttings. The seeds you purchased are Hippophae rhamodies (variety sinesis). They are the most commonly planted type in the world. China, which produces the most seaberry products, by far, uses these. Since they are a result of open pollination, there is inherently some variation to be expected. We think this is good. Having all the exact genetic make-up of plants close together is risky in terms of disease and environmental stresses affecting all your plants equally. So having that variability lends itself to some built in resilience. The only other sub-variety I have is from the himalayas. I am uncertain though whether they are subspecies "salicifolia" or "tibetana". It will be a few years before they fruit and more seeds are available.
Raising them from seed is fairly easy. They germinate quickly- 10 to 15 days at average temperatures. The care they require isn't specialized. If they are kept moist, not soggy, they will continue to grow. Fertilization is ok when young but do keep it about half the package directions regarding strength. Once established in their final locations, it is better not to use any non-organic fertilizers. They are nitrogen fixing and the symbiotic bacteria on the roots (frankia) can be harmed by too much added nitrogen in the soil. The small plants/seedlings like being outside. They harden off fast and become woody very quickly. It's spring so freezing is not much of an issue but they do have an amazing anti-freeze capability even when very young. Tough plants all around. Take care when transplanting at any age. Get as much of the roots as possible and keep watered to minimize the transplant shock.
The plants will begin shipping on April 15th. That's the plan. Weather here has been crazy but I expect your order will ship before the end of the month. Once it is shipped you will receive another email confirmation with the tracking number.
Thanks for the question, as you can see, seaberry is a favorite. All the very best to you.--Tom