an exercise in fertility
Keeping the bees happy!

I first learned of Joel Salatin reading Michael Pollan’s Omnivore’s Dilemma.  I was immediately captivated by the idea of it:  the elegant symbiosis that operated synergistically in the context of Natural Law, the harmony of the sun, air, water, and soil, the plants, and all the creatures, great and small, from microbial to human.   Each nurtured and respected in their element and given the gift of abundant actualization.  The answer to everything that is wrong with our industrialized food system.   The ultimate expression of liberty, self-sufficiency and problem solving at the local level that could be applied globally if only common sense were a valued commodity in our world today.   Yeah, don’t get me started.

The seed was planted for me…a quest for building useful skills in a world where full shelves at the grocery store might not be a given...  As an animal lover, I have long struggled with my desire and need to eat meat.  I love Salatin’s motto:  “All the animals on my farm have a really good life, and one bad day.”    I strive to live up to that as I learn to embrace my inner omnivore.

In this presentation, I am partially chronicling my journey, at this point half-way through my second growing season.

I hope you enjoy the tour!

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Straw Bale Gardening:  Joel Karsten
Back to Eden:   Paul Gautschi 


The first spring, I was starting from scratch.  I watched Joel Karsten’s video for the 2015 Home Grown Food Summit, produced by Marjory Wildcraft.  I got his book and followed the directions, and here’s what it looked like. 

As you can see, the bales are going in on a grass lawn.  They are oriented “straw -end” up to allow for maximum water and nutrient absorption.

The first step is to “cook” the bales, by adding fertilizer and water in a specific way over the course of 2 weeks.  For most of the process,  the input is pure Nitrogen, with Potassium and Phosphorous added at the end .

After a few days, the temperature deep in the bales really starts to climb.  Several of the bales got to 140 degrees F, and the ambient temperature was 60–70 degrees.  (I have the 140 degrees documented, but it’s in a video, and this format can’t handle video!)

At the end of two weeks, the bales are ready to plant, although these bales had several more weeks than that to mature.  I staggered the three rows a week apart.  While the bales were ripening and teeming with critters, we installed the 68” (supposedly) deer and rabbit-proof fence.
(It keeps the rabbits out as long as I remember to keep it energized, but we did have a deer breach just a couple of days ago…ate my kale and the tops off several tomato plants!)
At the same time, preparing the raised beds with mostly purchased inputs.   (Sadly, had to leave a HUGE pile of rabbit/straw compost behind when I left Oregon!)
Planting time!  


A cool feature of the straw bales, is that they are so warm, it enables one to extend the growing season, and in the event of inclement weather, it is very easy to fashion a mini-greenhouse on the existing structure.  Both the rows of bales and the raised bed are on a drip system.  Another great feature is that you can’t over-water…any excess just flows out the bottom of the straw bales, and they hold moisture very efficiently.
I will just show the progress of the garden for the rest of the season, and let the pictures speak for themselves!

A fruitful harvest, for which we are most grateful!