Monthly Archives: December 2016

Geoff Lawton Inspired Compost

Geoff Lawton may be Bill Mollison’s most outspoken and openly successful students. In his movie ‘Soils’, Geoff covers the importance of healthy soil and I took a few notes to apply in my ‘Compost Zone’ in the Applied Permaculture Project.

I built this pile late in the year (December), so it will sit until spring when I can turn it a few times and have it ready for planting time.

The ‘Compost Zone’ will largely be run by the chickens, but I don’t have the chickens yet. The idea is that I build the piles and the chickens pull sustenance out of them, turn them, and fertilize them. This serves several functions to include: aerating the compost, feeding the chickens, expediting the process, enhancing the final product, saving money in feed, and improving the quality in my garden. I’m a happy member of Earth’s Gym and don’t mind turning the pile from time to time, but I also don’t want to turn down free labor.

See how the pile is build and subscribe to my channel to make sure you don’t miss the final product, the inclusion of chickens, and the pursuit of self-reliance.

Winter Onions

How many onions do you eat in a year?

For me, it’s a lot.

Onions are one of those veggies I feel like I couldn’t grow enough of.

In the Winter 2016 Out Here Magazine published by Tractor Supply I found an article on winter onions. Low and behold, it was essentially a generic publication of research being done at UNH! I would link to it for you but I can’t find it on TSC’s website.

In the article it cites work done by Dr. Becky Sideman so I shot her an email to ask if she has published the details of her work. Not just the fact that she did it, but all the varieties, dates and conditions associated with the experiment. She responded promptly and directed me to two locations:


If you know anyone who likes to grow onions please pass this along. The thought of fresh onions in the spring will be very motivating for me to invest in some row covers. And with these scientific, yet understandable reports I feel like a lot of the hard work, trial and error, and guess work has largely been done.

How to sharpen serrated blades on an Edge Pro Apex

A drawback of the Edge Pro Apex is the inability to set the sharpening stones at or near zero degrees. Edge Pro addressed this issue with the professional model, but by building an appropriate shim you can get pretty solid work around on the Apex.

The way I have worked around this issue is by building a shim that sits on the deck of the edge pro against the guide. It raises the spine of the knife off the deck of the Apex enough to improve the angle, but not so much that it can slip over the guide.

Dimensioned drawing of the shim used on the Edge Pro Apex to sharpen serrated blades.

In my video, I go through the process of building the shims and how they are used to sharpen a standard kitchen serrated blade.

As I mentioned in my video, I punched out quite a few of these. If you would like one, please reach out to me and we can work something out.

Happy sharpening!

Don’t Bench Mount Your Edge Pro

The Edge Pro Apex is arguably the best knife sharpening tool available, yet it has some limitations. In this article I’ll show you a base I built that gets rid of the suction cups, adds stability, and retains portability.

First, as I progressively provide the details of my Applied Permaculture Project I want to share my intent with starting a knife sharpening business. The objective is not to become a full-time knife sharpener. Though I do find the metallurgy and science fascinating, neither do I intend to become the smartest dude on knives. My intent is really to provide an alternative source of income and to channel that income into a sustainability project on my homestead. When that project is successful I will look back on knife sharpening as the snowflake that started the snowball.

I heard a quote today on the Tim Ferriss podcast that struck a chord with me. Trying to win is not the same as trying not to lose. I find that motivational as I try to acquire customers for my knife sharpening business.

With that in mind, I also want to find other people with the itch to start a knife sharpening service in pursuit of greater self-reliance. For that reason I am posting as many details as I can of this venture. I sincerely hope this works, and that it can be used as a blueprint for someone else seeking greater control of life.

Now to the Edge Pro Apex. Really a great tool, with a major limitation. As sold, it does not stay put when sharpening a knife. I tried to correct this by mounting it directly to my workbench, but that made my work bench relatively unusable for other projects, and limited my ability to travel with the Edge Pro. One of the best things about acquiring any skill is the opportunity to share it with friends and family. My motivation to improve the mount was so that I could travel with the Edge Pro at Thanksgiving to sharpen the carving knife.

The best way I have come up with is a rigid mount to a plywood base. See the drawing below and download a higher resolution copy here:

Edge Pro Mount

Screenshot of the drawing, see the text for a link to a higher resolution version to build off.

This is a straight forward, simple, yet effective design. Non-slip adhesive pads are installed on the bottom, and the holes for the edge pro are drilled from the bottom with a 3/16” drill and countersunk to accept #8-32 flat head screw. I used 1.5” screws. Feed them through the hole, run a washer and nut down them, keep it loose as you screw it into the Edge Pro and when you have the Edge Pro at the height that you like, tighten the nuts to the plywood.

Detail on the fasteners for the Edge Pro mount.

The wings on the plywood allow the mount to be clamped to a table in case it still slides. I’ve used this on several surfaces and have not yet needed the clamps.

Please let me know if I missed any details, or if you need any help building one for yourself. Please also check out my YouTube video to see if it answers any questions you might have.

Transplanting Maple Trees

The best time to plant a tree is yesterday.

One of many practices within the permaculture realm is that of transitioning from an annual based plant system to a more perennial one. The focus is generally on fruit and nut bearing trees, but up here in the Northeast US, one cannot overlook the sugar maple.

Our small plot has beautiful maples and we are doing what we can to keep it that way. Nature has started several along the north side of the stone wall on the south end of our property. Where they started, they are destined to live in the shade. I marked some with flagging in the early fall, when the leaves were still on to aid positive identification, and now we are moving them into the light, yet along the same stone wall.

Lilly was a big helper for me on this project, and I dream of the day when we can carry (or pump) buckets of sap from the bottom of our property to our boiler to provide our fill of maple syrup. Please do enjoy my video of the project.