Friday, January 31, 2014

Scythes and the Perfect Cover Crop, Comfrey

So, I was surfing for info on scythes... and I came across this incredible cover crop that not only is great for soil-building but, also the perfect food for my chickens and ducks - Comfrey (Symphytum officinale.)

Turns out, its also a great people food - and medicine.

Guess it's time to plant a crop.

As always, I'll keep you posted.

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true comfrey seeds - symphytum officinale - plant under fruit trees

Michael "Skeeter" Pilarski, permaculture instructor and famous wildcrafter, tells us about how he has "true" comfrey seeds. NOT "russian comfrey."

Skeeter talks about growing comfrey from seed.

Comfrey is a popular permaculture plant because it is a nutrient accumulator. It is popular for planting under fruit trees.

Comfrey is sometimes called "knit bone" because of how effective it is for mending bones.

Apparently the FDA is coming down on comfrey because it has dangerous alkaloids in it. It has about 1/100th the dangerous alkaloids that beer has. [Fuckers.]

music by Jimmy Pardo

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Comfrey may be the most talked about permaculture plant. It is commonly planted under fruit trees because it does not compete with tree roots, but it does compete with plants that do compete with tree roots.

Alexia Allen of Hawthorn Farm tell us how she like using it as a poultice. We get to see bees and ants racing for the nectar of the comfrey blossoms. She also feeds it to her animals.

Toby Hemenway is the author of "Gaia's Garden: A Guide to Home-Scale Permaculture." He calls comfrey "the queen of the multi function plants." He talks a little about how easily it can spread when you don't want it. And then he talks about how he is able to get rid of it through mulching - but why would you not want it? It's a beneficial insect attractor; it is able to heal wounds; a dynamic nutrient accumulator; good for under fruit trees; good for a comfrey tree for soils; a huge biomass accumulator.

Tulsey Latoski of Portland, Oregon tells us about how comfrey makes a great green manure and living mulch. Mostly due to the tap roots that will pull nutrients up from down deep. She also shows us two different types of comfrey.

Norris Thomlinson of Portland, Oregon shares some observations about how comfrey fares as chicken feed; edible plant for humans; medicinal plant for humans;

Michael Pilarski is a famous wildcrafter and permaculture consultant. He tells us about how comfrey sluff material off into the soil to make for a richer soil. Apparently earthworms love comfrey! Michael tells us how comfrey is sometimes called "knit-bone" because it proliferates cell division - a great healer. His spring salads are loaded with comfrey leaves and blossoms. Michael talks about Dr. James Duke says that one bottle of beer has the same level of dangerous alkaloids as 100 cups of comfrey tea.

Matt from Feral Farm shows an understory heavy with comfrey.

Brian Kerkvliet of Inspiration Farm in Bellingham, Washington, talks about the challenges of getting comfrey out of an area where you don't want it. He uses a hot compost pile on top of it. He also shares the idea that if you have comfrey, that's a great place to plant a fruit tree! Then he shows a permaculture guild that includes comfrey.

Samantha Lewis describes how to tell the difference between comfrey, foxglove, mullein and borage.

Toby Hemenway wraps up with who is the king of the permaculture multifunctional plants (spoiler: bamboo!)

Relevant threads at permies:

music by Jimmy Pardo

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Brian Kerkvliet of Inspiration Farm in Bellingham, Washington shows off his scythe with a homemade snath.

His side job is not really being the grim reaper.

He sharpens the scythe with a whetstone every ten minutes or so. And every few days he peens the blade.

Brian tells a story of the story of a strapping young lad with a string trimmer competing against a barefoot maiden with a flowing dress and a scythe. And maiden won the 100 yard dash and all of her grass was laid nice and neat while the string trimmer has stuff scattered everywhere.

It takes a little practice to get the hang of using the scythe.

Brian talks about making his own snath or buying a snath.

He talks about how with the string trimmer you have to take it to the shop every spring to get it tuned up; regularly buy string (where does the string go?); the gas mixed with oil; make sure to wear pants because you will get slug parts and other stuff flung at you; annoying the neighbors when they are trying to sleep in.

Brian demonstrates using the scythe on short grass and on tall grass and shows how the cut grass can be left nice and orderly.

music by Jimmy Pardo

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