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Re: [fukuoka_farming] Re: seeking help

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  • burt levy
    --I also make seedballs with a mixer. It works great. We take our red clay and grind it throught different size screens to get a very fine red powder. Then we
    Message 1 of 6 , Apr 22, 2002
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      --I also make seedballs with a mixer. It works great.
      We take our red clay and grind it throught different
      size screens to get a very fine red powder. Then we
      mix our seeds, humus etc. together, and put it in the
      mixer and let it roll a bit, then slowly add water
      until the balls start to form. You can make thousands
      of seedballs this way. We use a mortar mixer and take
      out the vanes. Jim Bones <jimbones@...>
      wrote:
      > April 22, 2002
      >
      > Dear Judy Phillips,
      >
      > I am glad you are making seed balls, however I must
      > inform you that
      > adding the compost to the clay and keeping it
      > flooded as a way to store
      > it is only making an environment like that at the
      > bottom of a stagnant
      > swamp. This creates an anaerobic environment that
      > basically drowns and
      > suffocates all the beneficial microbes that could
      > help provide the
      > fertility needed by your seeds upon germination.
      > All you are left with
      > is mineral nutrients and something like fossil humic
      > acid or humates,
      > but without the living creatures that really make
      > soil fertile. It may
      > actually inhibit the full growth of your seeds.
      >
      > It is also my experience that trying to stuff seeds
      > into a wet clay
      > mixture damages many of the more fragile seeds,
      > especially the long and
      > fluffy grass seeds. The ultimate goal is to wrap
      > the seeds in a blanket
      > of clay, building it up in protective layers. Mr.
      > Fukuoka uses a cement
      > mixer with the blades removed to make batches of
      > seed balls. I use a
      > rotating drum to make them on a more or less
      > continuous basis. The
      > rolled structure is essentially the same.
      >
      > I know from personal experience that it can seem
      > like a chore to grind
      > the clay down to usable size, but it is the only way
      > other than buying
      > powdered clay I have found to get the best results.
      > I have seen Mr.
      > Fukuoka use large wooden rolling pins on wooden
      > boards to pulverize his
      > clay. I really don't know of a shortcut to doing it
      > correctly.
      >
      > Years ago Mr. Fukuoka tried to make a lot of seed
      > balls by mixing large
      > quantities of clay and seeds in very wet batches and
      > pushing them
      > through wire mesh. This had the drawback of over
      > wetting the seeds
      > which then soured or fermented and failed to
      > germinate. Keeping the
      > whole mix as dry as possible while still being able
      > to work with it is
      > the key. As others who have contributed to this
      > site have said, making
      > smaller batches by hand, more frequently, is most
      > successful. Please
      > continue your work and try other ways of pulverizing
      > the clay. I think
      > you will have greater success if you do. With great
      > admiration for your
      > efforts I am,
      >
      > Sincerely,
      >
      > Jim Bones
      >
      ----------------------------------------------------------------------------
      >
      > Judy Phillips wrote:
      >
      > I had the exactly the same quandary when I read the
      > instructions at
      > various online sites, Kyle. There is planty of red
      > clay in my
      > locale--trouble is it is usually in the form of
      > mucky red soup or else
      > dried hard as a rock. I did read one suggestion that
      > a dry block of clay
      > can be ground between two bricks to make it into a
      > powder, but I
      > couldn't see the point of the extra step myself.
      >
      > So what I generally do is get a five gallon bucket
      > and fill it about 1/3
      > full of clay, dug straight from the hillside. If the
      > clay is already
      > pretty moist, I then add my compost to this, put the
      > lid on the bucket
      > and roll it around the yard a few times to mix. If
      > the clay is on the
      > rock hard side, I cover it with water and ignore it
      > for a day or two,
      > then pour off the excess water and proceed as above.
      >
      > If the whole thing is too mucky at this point, I let
      > it sit and dry out
      > a bit before adding the seeds. I try to get the
      > clay to a point where
      > it is easy to kneed with my hands. When I have a
      > workable mixture, I
      > scoop out the desired amount of clay, mix in the
      > seeds du jour and kneed
      > them into the clay/ compost mixture. Then I pinch
      > off little bits and
      > roll them up, tossing them on a tarp or old sheet
      > to dry a bit. After they are dry to the touch, I
      > store them in mesh
      > bags--the ones potatoes come in are ideal for this.
      >
      > The main drawback to this trial and error process is
      > that you may have
      > to wait a day or two to get your mix just the way
      > you want it. To get
      > around this problem, I've taken to mixing up big
      > batches of the
      > clay/compost mixture. When it is the right
      > consistency, I seal the
      > bucket and tuck it away for future use. It seems to
      > keep pretty
      > indefinitely without getting moldy or mucky.
      >
      > Hope this helps! If anybody else on the list has
      > alternate suggestions
      > I'd like to hear about them too. This is my first
      > year planting with
      > seedballs, so it's all trial and error for me so
      > far.
      >
      > Good luck
      > Judy Phillips
      >
      >
      >
      > [Non-text portions of this message have been
      > removed]
      >
      >


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    • b.gilboa
      Answering to Judy Phillips to obtains dry clay from nature. As a potter, to filter pure clay from what I dug in the wild: 1) I put it in very large basin
      Message 2 of 6 , Apr 23, 2002
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        Answering to Judy Phillips to obtains dry clay from nature.

        As a potter, to filter pure clay from what I dug in the wild:
        1) I put it in very large basin filled with water,
        2) mix it slowly and patiently with a stick
        3) let it decant.
        4)Then, different layers are organised: rough material at the bottom then
        clay and then water on the top.
        5) I gently take out as much water as possible without disturbing the
        layers.
        6) I take off the upper layer of pure clay
        7) I lay it out on a a board and let it dry.
        (Potters wait for a precise dryness)
        In order to obtain powder, lay it out on a thin layer until completly dry
        (wind is the most efficient for that)
        8) With an adequate rock you can then very easily make powder from the dry
        layer on the board itself.

        (sometimes according to what you get in the soil you dug, step 2 and 3 have
        to be done more than once)
        All that is very simple, it's need only time and to be quite
        Best wishes !
        Beatrice
        Israƫl
      • Judy Phillips
        ... Thanks so much for the input! First off, I didn t mean to say that I kept the wet clay and compost stored together in a bucket--I can see that that would
        Message 3 of 6 , Apr 23, 2002
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          Jim Bones wrote:
          > I am glad you are making seed balls, however I must inform you that
          > adding the compost to the clay and keeping it flooded as a way to store
          > it is only making an environment like that at the bottom of a stagnant
          > swamp. This creates an anaerobic environment that basically drowns and
          > suffocates all the beneficial microbes that could help provide the
          > fertility needed by your seeds upon germination. All you are left with
          > is mineral nutrients and something like fossil humic acid or humates,
          > but without the living creatures that really make soil fertile. It may
          > actually inhibit the full growth of your seeds.

          Thanks so much for the input! First off, I didn't mean to say that I kept
          the wet clay and compost stored together in a bucket--I can see that that
          would be a bad idea, and potentially disgusting! What I meant to write (in
          the wee morning hours, as I have been spending every possible daylight hour
          outside in the gardens this spring!) was that once I got my clay to a
          workable texture, I found that I could keep the moisture level stable by
          capping the bucket and sitting it in the shade. I don't actually mix in the
          compost until I am ready to make up a batch.
          The compost I keep stored in a separate bucket--it seems to stay fresh and
          sweet and fertile as long as it is kept dry. (I am using worm castings,
          btw--does this seem like a good idea? If I want to get into this in a bigger
          way, I will either have to up the production on my little worm farm or find
          another source of quality organic compost. Suggestions?)

          > It is also my experience that trying to stuff seeds into a wet clay
          > mixture damages many of the more fragile seeds, especially the long and
          > fluffy grass seeds. The ultimate goal is to wrap the seeds in a blanket
          > of clay, building it up in protective layers. Mr. Fukuoka uses a cement
          > mixer with the blades removed to make batches of seed balls. I use a
          > rotating drum to make them on a more or less continuous basis. The
          > rolled structure is essentially the same.
          >

          Aaah, I see your point! Thus far I have been mostly working with pretty
          sturdy seeds--buckwheat, for example, and corn, beans and squash for my
          three sisters garden--but I will take the time to do the process more
          carefully in order to prevent damage to the smaller fragile seeds I will be
          collecting this season.

          > I know from personal experience that it can seem like a chore to grind
          > the clay down to usable size, but it is the only way other than buying
          > powdered clay I have found to get the best results. I have seen Mr.
          > Fukuoka use large wooden rolling pins on wooden boards to pulverize his
          > clay. I really don't know of a shortcut to doing it correctly.

          Beatrice's suggestion of decanting the clay and then laying it out in a thin
          layer sounds like the best technique for me at this point--I would love to
          advance to the rotating drum method soon, as I would like to be making the
          seedballs en masse, eventually. But for doing up small batches, it would be
          ideal to just "paint" a piece of plywood or an old tarp with the wet clay
          and then use a rock or rolling pin to powder it.

          > Years ago Mr. Fukuoka tried to make a lot of seed balls by mixing large
          > quantities of clay and seeds in very wet batches and pushing them
          > through wire mesh. This had the drawback of over wetting the seeds
          > which then soured or fermented and failed to germinate. Keeping the
          > whole mix as dry as possible while still being able to work with it is
          > the key.

          Hehe--already made that mistake! I did have one batch of seedballs get moldy
          this winter and figured I must have had the mixture too moist. So I
          definitely get the point here!

          >As others who have contributed to this site have said, making
          > smaller batches by hand, more frequently, is most successful. Please
          > continue your work and try other ways of pulverizing the clay. I think
          > you will have greater success if you do.

          Yes--I think the key here is breaking the process down into easy stages.
          Always having a batch of clay decanting, another drying, and a supply of
          powdered clay and compost at the ready so that small batches can be mixed up
          as seeds become available. I was trying to start this process over the
          winter and had no place but my tiny kitchen floor to work, so I am guilty of
          taking shortcuts in my eagerness to have seedballs ready for spring
          planting. As always, my mistakes lie in trying to outhink myself--the very
          lesson Mr. Fukuoka tries to impress on us every step of the way. <<blush>>

          As the cycle of seasons progresses, I look forward to establishing a rhythm
          with all this.
          I am particularly interested in harvesting native seeds in the area--wild
          edible and medicinal plants in particular--so the seed harvesting will be an
          integral part of the rhythm too...watching and learning when each plant is
          ready to harvest, noting its growth habits and so forth.

          Again--thanks so much Jim for sharingyour expeience with us--and to you,
          Beatrice, for clueing me in one how to simplify the powdering process. I'm
          ready to go out and start my next batch of seedballs with renewed insight!

          Green blessing to all of you--
          Judy Phillips
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