Perennial Vegetables

As I’ve said before, my goal in gardening is less horticulture and more intensive foraging. I want none of my plants to be dependent on me to live, so theoretically if you plant a garden Ryup fashion you should be able to come back years later with no tending and it’s still going.

I still grow some plants I’d want not to like flint corn, beans, and potatoes, so I’m not there yet. But I keep pushing it every year. Here’s a bunch of what’s coming up already.

Nettles Spring 2015
Nettles. I’ve planted this every year I’ve been here, and this is the first time it’s come back. It’s also the first year I’ve seen stinging nettles all over the woods everywhere I’m foraging. Usually I find mostly wood nettles instead, and not very often at that.

In the top right is comfrey, bottom right is mallow, and bottom left is woad. This is my first time growing woad and I’m pretty amazed at how vigorous it is.

Poulet gras. I can’t speak highly enough of this plant, and I intend on making a post specifically about it. The only grain I’ve had success with reseeding itself. While I’ve been able to get buckwheat and wild rice to get a few sprouts the next year, they’ve never come back more than once wherever I plant them, and I’m pretty sure the predators have been getting all the wheat and amaranth seed before it even gets a chance to try and survive the winter. And jerusalem artichokes and daylilies just aren’t something I could base my whole diet on, as hardy as they are. This is awfully thick, but I’m not too eager to thin it because that’s how thickly it reseeds itself on its own.


Salad Burnet. This is the first time I’ve tried this, never eaten it before. Not much sprouted, although it looks like all of them that sprouted last year came back.

Siberian kale. I’ve grown allot of kale, and it usually does pretty well, but always dies off in the winter. I may have been planting it in too wet of a spot though I don’t know. In any case, I’m pretty pleased with this variety. Apparently, Siberian kale is from Brassica napes, while reguliar kale is Brassica oleracea. In any case I can report it’s hardy to atleast -40.

Since I took these pictures I also have giant mustard, lovage, caraway, parsnips (both some saved seeds from a neighbor and some seeds from a wild patch), orpine, daylilies, ground nuts, jerusalem artichoke, some sort of unusual mint, and chives coming back up. I planted a variety of trees last year, but all of them got eaten by the moose since I wasn’t on my property last winter to keep them away. One of my projects is to get a squash to reseed itself. I’ve done it before both on purpose and on accident, just not on this piece of land yet.



Why do weeds grow so well?

Domesticated crops are less hardy (in many senses of the term) because they have been bred too strongly in limited numbers of qualities. Weeds can survive better because they are not performing at their maximum at all times; the excess is security.

Say you have two plants, plant breed A has bred to have high seed production whereas plant breed B is wild. Both plants are injured, while they are in flower and have to allocate extra resources towards healing their injuries. Plant of breed B is able to divert some of its energy away from its flowers and all its other systems because it has a bit of excess to spare, and even though it produces less seed it still produces some. Plant of breed A has all of its energy going towards making flowers at the time it’s injured, and by diverting energy away from them it doesn’t have enough resources to support all its flowers and doesn’t make any seeds.

In the wild, breed B’s linneage would go on to outproduce all the plants in breed A for all the nutrients in the soil, but in captivity where larger seedheads are selected for the only plants that will continue to be planted by the gardener next year are those with the larger seedhead that were fortunant enough not to be injured. But this means that one event coming through, say a dog running through the garden, is enough to destroy the crop. Whereas the weeds capable of being plucked and cast off still reroot and grow to fruiting.

The model of morality to follow is that of a simple weed. Like water, weeds live in the places no one else wants, use the resources that remain untaken, and persist and subside.


Alder Catkins

This spring I gathered quite a few gallons of alder catkins this spring and experimented around with them. During the early spring when nothing else is out to eat I used to grab a few to chew on here and there, but never tried to save any for year round. They probably have allot of nutrients like anything full of pollen, but I can’t imagine they have much energy in them, so they’re best as a spice.

I tried just gathering them and saving them, but it turns out there’s allot more moisture in them than it seems, so I had to roast them in a pan over he woodstove and they released allot of steam. After that I picked out al the burnt pieces and could rub them between my palms to get all the ‘kernals’ off, and they’re allot more palatable that way.

When picking them make sure to take the earliest ones you can get, the most yellow. They have the most pollen. Avoid the ones that are fully or partially closed, there’s a little insect that burrows in them (I have yet to see what the insect is, just the holes it makes). These unopened catkins seem to cause allot of the mold and burn easier and don’t have any pollen in them anyways.

Here’s what I ended up with:
I’ve been adding a handful to soups and such. I imagine it something like adding bee pollen. I’m definitely going to be doing this each year from now on.

Recent Projects

I got back home about a month ago, so I haven’t been able to post without the ready access to electricity. Here’s some of the projects I’ve been working on recently;


Some knitting needles, crochet hooks, shuttles, little wooden containers, spoons, &c. I’ve never been a very good woodworker, and right now I’m trying to teach myself how to work with green wood raw from the log. Here’s my first attempt at something more complex:


I admit, it’s pretty terrible, haha. I’m just going to use it as a birdfeeder. Right now I’m trying to learn ornithology, and as much as I dislike feeding the birds, I think that’s probably the best way to get and introduction to the topic.

My goal for this summer is to learn how to work with raw wood well enough to make a rabbit cage entirely from scratch with an axe and drill. Splitting all the planks and holding it together with dowels, that sort of thing.

Here’s the inside of one of those little containers. I use allot of containers. I’m going to need to figure out a good way to make larger ones for things that can’t be stored in felt sacks soon, cause I plan on gathering all my food for next winter. I don’t like relying on bought rice, oats, and pasta to get through the winter. I can support myself entirely off the land easily enough throughout the summer, and doing so through the winter is just a matter of setting enough aside to store. I figure a reasonable goal is to gather two gallons of food to dry per day. I’d guess that’d average to about two hours of work a day. It’s probably quite a bit overkill. But I’d sooner have more than I think I’ll need than too little, and I’m already out gathering for both supper and to make a living all day anyways, so it’s not much different than just a bit more time in the woods each day. I’m going to really work on preserving allot of fish and root crops, those are easy sources of food I almost entirely use fresh.

As always, spinning allot of wool. The white yarn on the left is from my dogs.


Recent Projects


I’m working away from home right now for tapping season. Hopefully when it finishes here it will be starting back home, though back there I’ll be tapping the birch since I don’t have enough large maples.


Last week I was down visiting my parents, and made a block of cheddar, a block of gouda, and a batch of soap. The cheese came out excellent.



The soap came out mediocre, I messed up the proportions and tried to fix it at the last moment by adding some more fat that wasn’t up to temperature, and ended up with a big thick layer of what I think is washing soda on the top. It definitely wasn’t lye. I shaved it off, don’t know how pure it is though. That’s what’s in the bowl there. I undoubtably got a bunch of soap powder shaved in there with it, I think that’s why it’s clumping together some.


Was out on a pond one day while they were having an ice fishing derby, someone caught this fish and was about to throw it back even though it was guthooked. I can’t believe it. I asked if I could have it and they said yeah, so it became lunch. Full of roe.


Someone near where I’m staying hit a deer, and they let me take the hide and organs in return for skinning it for them. I think it came out pretty well, that pelt.


I knit a little doll for my friend’s daughter. Honestly, it looks a bit creepy to me, haha.


Building my House


Just the process of how I built my house. Now, I’m not a very good carpenter and had no clue what I was doing, and I did use allot of materials like glass windows and plywood, and I did use a chainsaw for most of the cutting (I used a crosscut saw too…but back then I didn’t know how to properly sharpen it so it took a lot longer than it should have I realise now, haha), so it’s not entirely coherent with our beliefs. But like everything it’s a step closer and a work in progress.


Almost all cedar, cut 12 and 14 foot lengths. The interior of the cabin is 10 by 12.


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Maine Aug - Sept 2011 005


This is what I was living in through the Summer while I was building my house. The actual cabin itself only took 14 days altogether to build, but they were spread across the whole Summer.

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I didn’t do the roof in any way I’ve seen it done before, but it seemed like the most intuitive way to do it to me. It’s very strong and has held up well in any case. There’s a little loft two-thirds of the way across the inside that you can’t see in any of these pictures.


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Some of the cedar shakes I was making. I tried so hard to make enough to cover the roof, but I was running out of time before Winter and really needed a roof, so I went with some plywood a neighbour had left over from a project of theirs they never ended up using and gave me. Between how twisted the cedar was (they logged all the best wood off the property before I got it) and how bad I am with a froe, they didn’t turn out too well. I still have the pile, I split it into kindling and use them for plates to eat off of and such. Ah well, I’ll count it as practice for next time.

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And the inside. It still doesn’t look too much different from that in there, asside from the massive pile of books. I ended up building it for next to nothing compared to how much it usually costs to build a house except the cost of chainsaw gas, most of the materials that didn’t come from my land I got for free from other people. The windows came from the dump, all the 2×4’s I used in building it were excess from building my goat barn on the old property I lived at before this one, the stovepipe and a couple rolls of tarpaper came from a shed a friend of mine was tearing down, and my father had the fitting for the pipe to go through the roof. I did buy the plywood for the floor and the screws, though.

Next one I build will be ALL the right way, with nothing but an axe and materials all straight from the land. I’m away working to pay off my land right now, but when I get back I hope to finish building a wigwam I was working on and move in there instead.

The Too Sharp Sword

If you sharpen your sword constantly keeping it at its peak sharpness, the sword will wear down quickly and you will have to forge a new sword. But the opposite, of never resharpening and using a dull sword means while you may have the sword for longer it will eventually become so useless as to effectively be no sword. There is a balance to strike between the two, finding the perfect sharpness for the task.

The Too Sharp Sword is a maxim we use for describing how constant maintainance can lead to extra unnessessary work, a decrease in overall efficiency. The example goes that a blade kept too sharp will wear away quicker. You’ll need to reforge a new blade more often if you keep the edge constantly at its peak sharpness. While you may be able to get a finer cut with a sharper blade, past a certain point there is no increase in material benefit from finer sharpening.

A commercial knitting machine may be able to knit a finer cloth than knitting a garment by hand, but the time spent to build the machine would take longer than the time spent knitting any garment itself. And a very coarse and shoddily made hand knit fabric can be nearly as warm and comfortable, the increase is minimal.