Spring 2021 at Mezzacello

Well it’s nearly Easter in this year after COVID19. My enclosed sustainable ecosystem is readying itself to come back to life. I decided this cold sunny day was the perfect day to record Mezzacello.

This is right before it goes through it’s next big expansion. So here is a little slideshow from April 1, 2021. Let me know if you have any questions. There is some bit of trivia or an active experiment going on in everyone of these photos.


Don’t Look a Gift Horse in the Mouth

Diversity

Diversity in an ecosystem is always a good thing. I produce high quality compost and fertilizers from various sources. But the poultry and rabbit manure have limits. And it takes time and energy to synthesize them to where the garden beds actually need those minerals and soluble nitrogen. What I need is manure from a larger herbivore with a more selective diet. Cows are OK but their manure is hit or miss and cows eat anything. Seeds can remain intact. No, what I need is horse manure. And I found some! Thanks to Facebook, Columbus Area Homesteaders group, and Abigail Santorine and her lovely little pony, Ginger. My niece and I ran over to Abigail’s house and collected manure on a Monday night after work.

Community

I rarely mention this side of being an urban farmer. It takes a village to become a knowledgable urban farmer and it takes a village to get all the resources one will need to get an enclosed ecosystem sustainable. It takes work and community.

I am from Los Angeles. I started “farming” in 2014. I have gotten A LOT of help. And it’s from a community that spans the globe and is right in my back yard. The Facebook group “Columbus Area Homesteaders” is a terrific group! Everyone on there is so empathetic and helpful (even me). If you are interested in Urban Farming, definitely check them out! Also, remember, a community is a garden as well. It needs tended, it requires care and attention, and you have to be willing to replace what you take out. Abigail, I want to support your passionate mission at Tiny Horse. I’ll post details in the comments on this post! Thank you!


Changes, Evolution, and Chicken Coops

I love the play house chicken coop.
It represents my innocent and playful heart. I meant well;Now I know better.

I was at a party last year (just before the #COVID19 pandemic changed the world) and I was discussing farming with a colleague. Their position was that it was impossible to be a farmer (based on my experiences) they couldn’t manage the shame of failure. Straight face when they said this, by the way. There was a version of me that existed at one time that would have been horrified at this sentiment. That version of me craved convenience over confidence. I am a product of failure; I feel zero shame at my failure. What I feel instead is a desire to keep evolving, learning, and sharing. I am a product of the very culture I want to transform. The person who looks at a grocery store as the ENTIRE story of food. Thanks to modernism, technology, and capitalism this is true of many people these days. But an idea is not truth. It is a story that you create and use to describe what you can see. The trick is to always be willing to ask better questions. Yes, those questions will most likely lead to failure. But the truth is that wisdom nurses at the teet of failure. We grow very little from success; but we grow most at the hands of failure. This is a hard but necessary lesson. There was a time when seeing someone else succeed at something I was trying would make me feel shame. I burnt that nuisance weed down to the ground – with a flamethrower. My success is DEPENDENT on seeing what others do and learning from THAT. Case in point; my chicken coop.

Precious, naive me believed this was a good idea at the time. In fact you can see the very evolution of this idea in this photo. You gave the “winter coop” and just behind it the larger coop. When I engineered these coops I believe I was engineering g from the perspective of the chickens. Small and scaled for one purpose; housing for small animals. I had not yet factored myself into their ecosystem. There did not need to be room for me to coexist in what I thought of as their “space”. But that was a failure of imagination. The enclosed ecosystems of Mezzacello I now realize need to be gracious enough for all components of that ecosystem to interact. That includes the humans.

i feel zero shame that it took me five years of continuous failure, evolution, and modification to discover this truth. I documented it all. I can point to specific moments like this and help others avoid these mistakes. There is a calculus to life that has variables of ease of use, integration, cost, and wisdom. You must be ready to factor for all of these when you make plans. My plans are changing – yet again. But they will make it easier for me to coexist in the worlds of these animals, these systems, these plants, microorganisms and fungi. As we should. I love the play house chicken coop. It represents my innocent and playful heart. I meant well; now I know better.


Spring 2021 and the Brunerform

Spring 2021 and the Brunerform

Spring 2021 and the Brunerform
Almost Spring!

It was 14C in Ohio yesterday and this is my observation of spring 2021 and the Brunerform. Rick and I decided to go out and talk to Mezzacello and see what she might be needing. We saw a lot of trash (hidden beneath the snows) and many signs of life! It was a nice little jaunt.

Rick checked on all of his formal garden beds to encourage them. I checked on the pond, the potager herb beds and my #ProjectMartian beds. Oof! They need love, but they are thriving.

I let the poultry into the potager vegetable beds. They went crazy and TURNED everything over for me. Thanks! Mental note: Don’t spend $50 on mulch to make the walkways between the beds look clean. Those birds turned EVERYTHING over. LOL!

But that is a natural sustainable system for you. The compost beds look terrific! I have 2,000 Liters of additional compost cured in the #ProjectMartian BioReactors. That will be added into the potager beds and into parts of Rick’s gardens.

It’s only fair, since his gardens provided a lot of the biomass. I snapped this quick photo of Rick and I. As per usual I am in my “Brunerform”.

The Brunerform

One question I get asked a lot about sustainable #AppliedSTEM bio-engineered gardens is why I am always wearing a dress shirt and bow tie while I am gardening. It’s an important question that deserves an answer; It’s because I want to.

Everyone assumes that I wear expensive clothes. WRONG. That bow tie costs more than everything else I am wearing in this photo – including the hat and shoes. I wear Thrift Store clothes.

I prefer natural fibers that can be shredded and added back into the system or at the very least, re-donated. I am not insane. I am just aware that nature recycles everything, even beauty.

This is what I fondly refer to as my “Brunerform” You’ll rarely see me out of it. In fact, amongst my friends and neighbors, they loudly complain when they see me out of it. It is my style and it has become my brand.

Every time I use the Hashtag #GentlemanFarmer I mean it. What is your impression you want to make on the world? Mine is classy and always #BattleReady in a boardroom or in a garden room, take your pick.


The Paths To The Ecosystems

The Paths To The Ecosystems

The Paths To The Ecosystems
The snow highlights the path through the yard that touches every ecosystem at Mezzacello.

Mezzacello is first and foremost a private residence and it is a yard. But it is also an urban garden and an urban farm. There will be supplies that must be brought in and products that will travel from one ecosystem to another, you can see that in the paths to the ecosystems left in the snow.

Traveling from the house to the poultry and rabbit warrens leaves a path. It was interesting to see that path so clearly on this winter day. Like a road traveling down the north south axis of the house, the herbal parterres, the aquatic ecosystem, the henyard, the potager garden and the greenhouses.

This path gets used so much I have had to plant high traffic grass seed because the original grass just became a muddy path. I never really documented that though. Let’s face it, a wintery path and healthy, impact tolerant grass is a better image than a muddy path.

But that path is a superhighway of activity amongst all six of these ecosystems. I am really proud of it. I’ll be traveling on it to shut the animals away safe for the night, shortly.


Next Steps for Project Martian

With the success of Project Martian last summer, I am making plans to extend my research. Last summer was about optimizing yield and harvest ability of the selected crops. I am still doing well in my winter larder! This spring and summer will be about implementing technology and automation to extend my mission into other food deserts.

Stay tuned for #ProjectBioLEGO. My first foray into automation agriculture and ecosystem management.


The Aquatic Ecosystem in 2021

It’s winter, 2021. This is the fourth winter in the aquatic ecosystem for the fish at Mezzacello. If you’re not familiar, start with this nightmare or this, or this. I have busted my gluteal muscles trying to learn what Mother Nature needs to create a #Sustainable aquatic ecosystem and make it manageable for a 21st Century life style. It has been a rewarding journey. So much #Physics #Biology #Chemistry #Ecology #Hydrodynamics #Stats #Mathematics #Topology #Geometry and #Legal issues. All of this. From having the police called on me for digging a six foot grave, to mastering hydrology and pump technology and #Backup Systems to the magic of getting handwritten poems in the fence written by neighborhood kids. This particular ecosystem at Mezzacello has been a wonderful journey. Recently I went out and looked into the clear 1.7m abyss at the perfectly content fish I was reminded of the Haiku that one of my summer camp kids wrote to me on 2018:

Sky of clear water
Dug deep down into the ground
Warm in winter, sound

That’s the aquatic ecosystem in a nutshell.


The Foodist: Martian Matzo Soup

After spending most of 2020 experimenting and learning to maximize yields, I decided to start using some of the food from #ProjectMartian. My video intern at PAST Foundation was feeling under the weather, so I decided it was a good time to make Martian Matzo Soup.

This was a #ProjectMartian mashup: MirePoix (carrots, onion, celery, oil, thyme, parsley) prepared and frozen at time of harvest. Then there was a chicken harvested, cooked, and vacuum sealed in the spring from the freezer. I also made chicken broth made from chicken carcass and spare Martian vegetables tailings that I had frozen and stored in freezer. Lastly there was the Matzo ball mix made with stale matzo crackers (a gift (fresh, two years ago) from a PAST Foundation colleague that I found and ground into matzo meal) and dehydrated onion, garlic, and celery mixed in that was packaged and vacuum sealed and stored for another day – like today! It’s make your intern feel better day!

It took me 30 minutes from start to finish to make this soup. That’s it. My colleagues at PAST had to endure endless photos of the process. Looking at the first text:

To the last text of the finished soup was indeed 30 minutes.

Here is the recipe and it is crazy easy!

Ingredients:

  • 2 carrots peeled and chopped
  • 2 onions peeled and chopped
  • 2 celery sticks chopped
  • 2 Tbsp olive oil
  • or 2 mirepoix frozen cakes (2 cups)
  • 4 cups water or chicken broth
  • 4 cups water
  • 2 cups chopped cooked chicken
  • 1/2 cup white wine
  • 2 Tbsp worcestershire sauce
  • 1 Tbsp each Tarragon, Thyme, Parsley
  • Salt and Pepper

Matzo Soup Base:

  • 2/3 cup seasoned matzo meal
  • 2 Eggs
  • 2 TBsp oil
  • 1 Tbsp baking soda and 1 Tbsp vinegar or lemon juice or
  • 2 Tbsp seltzer water
  1. In a 4 quart pan, add olive oil and fresh vegetables. Alternatively add oil and melt mirepoix. Add 4 cups of broth or water with bouillon. Bring to a boil.
  2. Reduce heat. Add in chicken, wine and herbs. Let simmer for 15 minutes.
  3. Prepare Matzo balls:

Matzo Balls:

  1. In a stainless or glass bowl (not plastic) add two eggs. Add in the oil.
  2. Add in the seltzer water OR combine the baking soda and acid and mix.
  3. Pour either the seltzer water or baking soda acid into bowl. Whip vigorously with a FORK – not a whisk until frothy.
  4. Add in Matzo meal (you can buy matzo meal kits, but making your own is the way to go on Mars – just saying)
  5. Gently combine the meal with the frothy liquids until just mixed. Do not over mix. You want lots of air!
  6. Cover matzo mix with cling wrap, a cover or a cloth. Set in refrigerator for 15 minutes.
  7. Form 3cm balls.

Finish your soup:

  1. Add matzo balls to the simmering soup.
  2. Baste the matzo balls with broth.
  3. Cover pan and let matzo balls cook for 15-20 minutes on low heat.
  4. Matzo balls will swell! This is normal. In fact as you reheat this soup the balls will disintegrate; this is OK.
  5. The magic of matzo is threefold:
  • the Uber simplicity!
  • the flavor!
  • The antibiotic and antioxidants in this are off the hook!

Enjoy! PS my PAST Foundation intern was VERY concerned that the Martian Matzo Soup was purple. I explained that when you live on Mars, you eat what you have. We had Purple carrots. He ate it, and he loved it! So did mom!

I told him to tell his mom she needs to go to Msrs! LOL! just kidding. Juana, this blog post is dedicated to you!