Category Archives: Uncategorized

FECO Water Conservation Grant – Step One

January 21, 201820171231_sm-the-lift-3-step-two-all-161258_hdr

Our newest cistern is in place, poised to capture 1,000 gallons of water every winter. A volunteer found it used on Craig’s List and donated it to FECO.

On the last day of 2017, nine volunteers worked 2.5 hours to set a bamboo structure in place and to build and attach a 6′ x 10′ roof over the bamboo.

171219-sm-jeff-bamboo-wp_20171209_002The bamboo structure had been preassembled by Jeff. He called it advanced fort building. We had previously cut the bamboo from the yard of Judy Scheinuk, a member of the Seattle Tree Fruit Society. She was delighted to have her bamboo thinned.

The roof is located to the side of the cistern and serves a dual purpose; it not only captures water for the cistern but also keeps organic materials (waiting to be composted) dry so microbial decomposition is minimized.

By early summer, we should have all three cisterns full, even though the new cistern missed the fall rain. Nancy did some number crunching, with the knowledge that we catch more rain each winter than can fit the in two older cisterns. She figures we can play catch-up by stealing 500 gallons from the two older cisterns and transfering that water now to the new one.final-sm-crop-plumbing-wp_20180105_001

But, how to transfer the water? Stay tuned for Step 2 – installation of our new treadle pump.

Sat, Feb 17, 1-3, Pruning Class
Sun, Feb 18, 2-4, Work Party
Sun, Mar 18, 2-4, Work Party
Sun, Apr 15, 2-4, Work Party

FECO is the recent recipient of a third City of Seattle Department of Neighborhoods Matching Grant, related to water conservation and experimental watering methods. We need to volunteers to work 300 hours and the City will match with $10,000 toward our expenses.

We have three goals for the water conservation grant: 1) to use less or no City water, 2) to improve our system so we spend less time watering, and 3) make watering an easier task physically.

Ruth

Good Soil Biology – The Perfect Recipe For Plants

December 19, 2017sm-171119-big-nema-400x-worm-bin-tc_7

It’s time to honor our important volunteers who live in the soil – the nematodes, protozoa, microarthropods, fungi and bacteria. All these fellows work tirelessly underground, decomposing organic matter and pooping out the nutrients in the form that plants can use.

In fact, organic matter is the only food we have supplied for the orchard trees and shrubs over the last six years. And, now that we are using the thermal compost process (see Nov. 2017 blog), we will be regularly cooking up tasty treats our plants enjoy.

rc-plant-succession-slide-elaine-ingham-life-in-the-soil-oxford-keynote-2014Plants put out sugars in their root zones to attract the critters they most desire. Early succession plants, like weeds, desire soil with more bacteria (see Ingham slide). Late succession plants, such as deciduous and conifer trees, prefer fungal dominated soils.

When we make our compost, the types of inputs we use will determine whether the compost will also be bacterial or fungal dominated.

How do we test the characteristics of our compost? We can put the finished product under the microscope and actually count how many bacteria, fungi, protozoa and nematodes we have and then convert the counts to biomass.

Sun, Dec 31, 2-4, Roof Work Party
Sun, Jan 21, 2-4, Work Party
Sat, Feb 17, 1-3, Pruning Class

Dr Elaine Ingham offers very accessible online classes in soil biology, making compost, compost tea the-soil-food-web-nrcs142p2_049822and using microscopes to test soil life. She discounts classes at various times of the year. If you take these classes, you will learn how to be a good land steward (see Ingham’s soil food web slide).

You won’t remember but, when seed plants arrived over 360 million years ago, good soil biology was already in place. Plants know what they need from the soil and how to get it. We can all play a part to improve soil quality by minimizing soil compaction and avoiding use of inorganic fertilizers. The importance of soil is the subject of this recent article from the New York Times.

Ruth

A Nod For Natives

October 16, 2017

These days I hang out with volunteers of the Washington Native Plant Society (WNPS). I don’t tend to say much. I know my place (right field).

These are pleasant knowledgeable folks and I am learning a lot. One member coaxed me to sign sm-greenhouse-wp_20171014_012up for a native plant propagation class at Oxbox Farm last Saturday. It was fantastic. Bridget McNassar is a trained teacher and has been working in their nursery for five years. The nursery is pristine. I asked if I needed to take my shoes off. Check out those hanging hoses.

She covered seed collecting, cleaning and sm-oregon-sunshine-seeds-wp_20171014_005storage and showed us when a seed head is ready for collection. In the photo she collects seeds from the flowering Oregon Sunshine (Eriophyllum lanatum).

We reviewed germination, including the issue of dormancy, and Bridget graciously provided us with Swordfern spores to take home. In the photo, she is patching out. She takes a fern that has emerged and sm-patching-wp_20171014_008plucks it out and pushes it into a bare area of the same medium (bark and compost).

Sun, Nov 19, 2-4, Work Party
Sun, Dec 17, 2-4, Work Party
Sun, Jan 21, 2-4, Work Party

She offered several types of seeds for us to take and gave us the link to the website Native Plant Propagation Protocol Database so we could look up how many days we had to keep some of our seeds in the refrigerator (cold stratification) before we tried to sow them. Salal needs 42-100 cold days so I will put the seeds in the refrigerator in mid-winter for spring planting.

The class size was small so questions were answered, either by Bridget or by a high school boy scout quite familiar with the Latin names of plants!

Tips from Bridget:

A seed is not mature if you can dent it with your fingernail
Consider a food processor with a plastic dull “blade” to separate pulp from seed for fleshy fruit
A good way to scarify seeds is to rub them between two sanding blocks
Simple cotton bags work well to dry seeds
Make sure seeds are dry and cold for storage
The 6 mil plastic zip lock bags don’t let gases through in the refrigerator
Be patient! Trillium can take three years

There are still two sessions left of this class – Saturday October 21 and October 28

You can use your phone to start your native wildflower education. Those hard-working people at the Burke Museum have a smartphone app at  https://www.pnwflowers.com/app

Help is with our own native plant area at the south end of the orchard at the next work party. We just acquired a Scouler’s Willow (Salix scouleriana), the most drought tolerant of the natives.

Ruth