Experimental Homestead

About me


I’m very much the personality type INTJ, the scientist or systems builder. I place a high value on useful directly gathered information which I then am compelled to implement into functional systems. I mostly love being this way and having the special skills and drive to make things happen and manifest objects and systems from facts and concepts. However, INTJ’s tend to have trouble relating to most people or engaging in “normal” social interactions and customs, and in this I’m no exception. We tend to be critical of our own efforts and products, but that drives us to produce quality products and results. I may be critical of my efforts, but when things work out I’m my own biggest fan! For instance, my pepperoncini are freakin’ awesome!!!!!  My interests are broad and my focus often intense and fairly exclusive.

I’ve been a practitioner of what most people would consider outdated knowledge and skills for many years starting to be very interested in them from about the age of 16.  I’m a natural teacher and get some fulfillment out of relaying information to people that I feel can benefit from it. I’ve taught and written about such things for most of the time I’ve been interested in them. My need to implement facts and concepts into functional systems or products has led me to the project I’m most involved in right now of homesteading 40 acres in Northern California where my goal is to figure out how to live a sane and fulfilling lifestyle here in this area, and more specifically on this particular piece of land.

Some interests of mine;


Playing: I’m a guitar player with broad tastes and playing styles. I don’t always play what I listen too in terms of styles. I always intend to develop more in this area as it gives me another language in which to express myself that is distinctly different from other human means of expression, but it often takes a back seat. I have a lot of natural talent in this area that won’t likely be developed.

Listening: My passion is generally discordant, violently intense metal… especially Death and Black metal generas. I grew up on 80’s hardcore punk which I still love, but largely bypass in favor of more developed metal styles. These musical generas while making most people run the other way and feel attacked, offer me an experience that resonates with my often intense frustration with dealing with broader society and conventions which I find, in substitute for a string of other descriptors, LAME!  I also listen to other styles and appreciate a good bit of classical music for it’s complexity and expressiveness. Skill and good studio production are not necessarily prerequisite to my enjoyment of music. However, I’m also an audiophile and have spent way too much time geeking out over audio equipment. In this area I’m all about tubes (valves). I repair vintage tube audio gear now and then.


 My primary focus in this area is edible and useful plants, both wild and domestic… not only growing them, but also actually using them in our systems here.

Gardening/Horticulture: My goals in this area tend toward minimum outside inputs, development of systems that work well here and in the life of the homestead, appropriate productivity and high quality. I enjoy food and cooking a lot and most years I’m experimenting with new varieties to find better flavor, disease resistance and productivity. Part of this whole process is to expand knowledge and experience in cooking, processing, using and preserving of edible and useful plants. I manage a large garden (usually with help from friends and family) and have overseen the planting, care and training of over 70 (make that well over 100 and counting) fruit and nut trees on the land through the past 3 years or so most of which I have grafted myself to carefully selected varieties. Many more trees are on the way!  I have an apple tree with 60 (make that about 90) distinct varieties grafted onto it.. and counting (make that 140+).

Wild plants: I have a broader than average knowledge of edible and useful plants and the ways that they grow and fit into their environments. While wild plants currently make up a relatively small portion of the diet, I find this knowledge useful and enlightening and relish the select items that I do consume in quantity, like wild mushrooms and berries.


I’m all about moving toward very localized cuisine and not in a trendy way.  I enjoy cooking much of the time and creating good tasting food from what’s available.  I like healthy food that looks and tastes good and leaves me feeling good after I eat it too…. not bloated, overstuffed, toxic or still hungry (unless I am planning to eat more!)


My propensity to gain detailed understanding in subjects and my drive to relate useful information to people makes how-to writing a natural pursuit. It can be torturous at times, but overall I enjoy the process and the feeling of being able to put my knowledge to use and have a chance to relate practical and philosophical ideas. I’ve been criticized for going on rants and injecting too much philosophy into practical texts, but I think it can be essential to understand the motives of the writer and the ethical and philosophical framework in which they live. Perspective and Context are important concepts to me, because without considering them we end up making really dumb decisions.


Philosophy to me must serve an end. Strictly intellectual pursuits bore me. However, I spend a fair amount of time thinking about and discussing my philosophies as they form the framework in which I work and make decisions and are extremely important in that regard. Key to my philosophical outlook is that I believe the general attitude of the universe is indifference. That means I do not believe in a “god” or a directing force of any kind that is concerned with us or the appropriateness of our behavior. Not only that, but I see religious beliefs as generally destructive and distracting which puts me in a very small minority.


(aka primitive technology): I was obsessed with this subject for many years and became proficient in some skills.  It is a deep and open ended subject that a person could expend lifetimes on. I still plan to write up more of my knowledge in this area as I think these skills are worth keeping alive and I think my particular understanding and the way I can present it will be found useful by others. The understanding of basic technologies and the requisite knowledge of natural materials and systems required to be good at it, gives me a perspective that is uncommon in the society I live in.  Tamara Wilder and I co-wrote Buckskin: the ancient art of braintanning and founded a business called paleotechnics. which she now runs almost single handedly as I’m busy with other things.  I do, however, write most of the paleotechnics blog which is focused on ancestral skills and related stuff.

gobble gobble.


  1. Ah….yea…really enjoying your stories..I have friended your partner tamara…and met you a few weeks ago.. but it was a bit awkward…now I understand why…for I also do not relate in the way of socially accepted agreements about how we are supposed to relate…anyhow, I appreciate all your good work, experience and perspective to reflect on…I also am one of the few who feels the universe (thankfully) to be indifferent…It is ONLY when I forget this that I get into trouble. Again.. thank you. Peace…Blackhawk

    Comment by Kaireen Martin | February 24, 2010 | Reply

  2. I am loving this blog. I am afraid of gushing too much because I don’t want to be like one of your weird fans, but I can’t help it! I think you are so great! I want to buy the book! I want you to run the country! Wouldn’t Tamara make a perfect first lady? Write On, Melissa

    Comment by melissa meader | March 28, 2010 | Reply

  3. Enlightened and entertained.

    Comment by devin | June 18, 2010 | Reply

  4. Hi there I was looking for info on potato onions in your country as I am putting together a collection of Egyptian,welsh or everlasting onions and potato onions. and came across your article on potato onions, I have just received a small collection of potato onions nine different types in all from red,brown and white, I was interested in the name of the variety that you are growing,and the possibility of acquiring some to add to my collection, I have been supplied with only three or four bulbs of each variety of potato onion so need to grow some before I could reciprocate by sending some to you. I live in the UK where as in your country the potato onion was near to dying out. In my Country it is illegal to sell these onions as it is the case with some of the old varieties of seeds. Five or so seed companies now control a high percentage of seed sales throughout the world and when they are dropped from their catalogues these heritage plants die out never to be seen again, The only way that they are being saved in my Country is by the distribution by joining a club where when you join the cost of membership entitles you to have some seed or bulbs . No sale has therefore taken place. You are keeping alive part of a rich heritage of diversity that may help if some as yet unknown disease starts to attack onions as the little bulbs seem to have a resistance to some of the common ailments that affect larger onions, Sorry if I seem a little obsessed by onions but it started when my mother died and I remembered the everlasting onions she used to grow that multiply like the potato onion but don’t form bulbs and are used like the salad onion. I searched her garden but could not find them and that started my search. I am also looking for the Amish onion which is a type of bottle onion which takes two years to seed which is why it is not common.regards John the onion stalker

    Comment by John humphrey | August 24, 2011 | Reply

    • Hi John: I like plant obsessed people and your project sounds awesome. I’ve been thinking about doing something similar, but I never run across references to other types of potato onion… or rather I should say that I usually don’t see the type specified except maybe it might say yellow potato onions. Just today I updated the potato onion post to say that I think people should breed these onions to create more types, but I didn’t really know that any others actually existed. Unfortunately I don’t know what type I have, but I’ll be glad to send you some bulbs in case they are genetically different from what you already have. I hope that with internet access the information and availability of resources that we need to do what you are doing will become more and more available allowing more people to follow in your footsteps. One great thing about the perennial onions is that they are easy to keep segregated since pollen and crossing is not an issue. That makes it possible to have a large genetic repository in one place. I’d be very excited to be such a site if when you get ahead enough to be able to distribute bulbs. Keep up the good works!

      Comment by turkeysong | August 24, 2011 | Reply

  5. John, you make an interesting comment – that the smaller bulbs seem resistant to disease. One of my current theories is that because of multiple decades of cloning, viral diseases can build up. There might also be bacterial diseases, because the original flesh is stored, then replanted again the following spring, allowing a bacterial disease to be perpetuated year after year. Perhaps the build-up of diseases over the course of a hundred years of vegetative reproduction has decreased the size and vigor of the old, established varieties? At least this is one of my theories, because when I get a true Potato Onion seed, and then plant that seed, the resulting Potato Onions are at least three times bigger than the original bulb! My current varieties I am breeding are much bigger than varieties that are currently available commercially. I would encourage anyone encountering true, viable Potato Onion seeds to embark upon the development of new, more productive varieties of Potato Onions!

    Comment by Kelly Winterton | August 27, 2011 | Reply

    • Also, John, since you are in England, you might be able to contact Geoffrey Larbalestier who has obtained some true seed from me. He is in England somewhere, and I know he is on Facebook. He is currently growing some Potato Onions which he obtained from me. You mentioned that it is illegal to send bulbs to England and sell them, so I mailed the seeds and bulbs to his son who lives in the States, and he has taken the seeds from the States to England with him on his carry-on luggage back to England (at least I think that’s how he did it. He was aware of all the laws and told me he obeyed all the laws. I think it’s OK to take true seeds to England).

      Comment by Kelly Winterton | August 27, 2011 | Reply

    • Interesting idea regarding the viral theory of small potato onions. Are your seed grown potato onions producing similar numbers of bulbs to the older smaller types?

      Comment by turkeysong | August 27, 2011 | Reply

  6. Hey there,

    I have some “white multiplier” onions that I like even better than potato onions — they don’t ever have to be dug up, but just keep going. They do really well here in Fort Bragg.

    Comment by steve wiltse | November 9, 2011 | Reply

    • Great I’d like to try some. Maybe we can trade.

      Comment by turkeysong | November 9, 2011 | Reply

  7. turkeysong where did you come up with that name I just love it? mine is foxtail.
    I just started my first bed with 6 sets and also preparing a second bed for some Potato Onions that my brother is sending me. He lives in Eagar Arizona at 7,000 foot elevation and he just sent some to a friend of mine that lives in Amalia, New Mexico at 9,000 feet and I live in Graham, Washington at 800 feet. His bed is quite large after 3 years from 6 starts. I just planted 6 on the 20th of Aug and most of them are already 8 inches tall from just the bulb.

    I did suggest to her to pot a couple of them and place then in a sunny window for the winter. It will be interesting to hear how they do. I might try that also just to test. It does get below zero there. Will keep you posted.


    Comment by Ed Tieman | September 14, 2012 | Reply

    • I’m glad you like the name, some people don’t “get it”. I came up with it because we have a lot of turkeys hanging around (wild) and we hear them gobbling all the time. All the hippies around here (a lot) name their places stuff like mountain song or river wind or whatever and I was just making fun of that. it still cracks me up anyway.

      It is fine to hold the onions over until warmer weather in spring at those very high elevations. People did plant them in the fall in the north, but typically they were hilled up with earth which was then scraped away when the weather warmed up in spring. If you read the blog post I did of historical potato onion research there are descriptions of how they used to grow them in the north. I think you can probably get away with no protection where you are. Best of luck, they really add up fast due to the whole exponential factor!

      Comment by Stevene | September 14, 2012 | Reply

  8. hi! we met at the farmers market this morning- my booth was next to yours. You were right, I did read about making madrone berry garlands on your other blog. They’re even more beautiful in person! I’ve been reading all your posts and they’re great- I love the apple tasting notes.

    -Caroline, from Black Dog Farm
    my blog is http://www.growitcookitcanit.com

    Comment by Caroline | March 23, 2013 | Reply

    • Oh, yeah, I forgot to write down my blog address for you, but I guess you found it! I’m glad you like the tasting notes. Look forward to more this following season if we have a good bloom period (and maybe some rain?). I’ll check out your blog. See you at the market!

      Comment by Stevene | March 23, 2013 | Reply

  9. INTJ here too. Must get to know you and your knowleges better. lol. Will read more as I have time and energy to do. I am so much the same kind of person you are. So many same interests and attitudes. I happened on something of yours online somewhere and that started the interest.

    Comment by Karen Wood | July 2, 2015 | Reply

    • Awesome. There aren’t that many of us! And we’re right! Ha, not really. It takes all kinds as they say…

      Comment by Stevene | July 2, 2015 | Reply

      • We make up about 2% of the population. I like being me other than the not being understood (seeming illogical sometimes etc.) by other types; but yeah, bring on the other types too. Matters that people are basically good hearted, to me.

        Comment by Karen Wood | July 3, 2015

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