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Most visited this week:

Smallest wood stoves

How many batteries do I need for my solar panels?

Wood stove in a mobile home

Propagating persimmons: Germinating seeds, grafting, and transplanting

Fighting tomato blight with pennies


Oct 2013
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A year ago this week:

Lion's mane mushroom

Why you might be better off without toothpaste

St. Paul Appalachian Heritage Fall Festival

ATV solenoid troubleshooting

Oct 2012
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goats on the porch

Today makes the 2nd goat escape so far.

How bad are they when they get out?

Not that bad...Artemesia yells a bit, but they seem fine once we tuck them back in.

Posted Thu Oct 23 15:42:34 2014 Tags:

Goats cleaning up a fencelineI was a bit disappointed by our goats' inability to eat a thicket of weeds to the ground, but I've been thrilled at how well they do at cleaning honeysuckle off our fencelines.  Every evening, after walking the girls back to their coop, I move five cattle panels into a new arrangement to prepare for the next day.  Two panels lean up against the honeysuckle-covered fence, and the other three (and two fence posts and a bit of rope) complete the enclosure.

The next morning when I bring the goats to their new pasture, Abigail runs right for the honeysuckle and Artemesia soon follows suit.  They gorge for a couple of hours, then chew their cuds, then gorge again.  By dinnertime, that side of the fence is bare of honeysuckle leaves (although some stems remain, proving that the goats will have to regraze the same areas next year).

Honeysuckle on the fence

For the sake of comparison, the photos above show yesterday's fenceline (left) and the edge of tomorrow's fenceline (right).  After reading that honeysuckle leaves are equivalent in protein and total digestible nutrients to alfalfa hay, I can understand why our girls do such a good job removing the wily vine.

Goat eating cattails

Back when I was just reading about goats, I hadn't planned to let our new livestock within our core homestead.  In fact, I was going to keep them at least two fences away just in case the tame deer (which is how I thought of them) escaped and headed for my precious apple trees.  Now I'm thinking that maybe I overreacted.  The only goat escape from my cattle-panel tractors has been when I didn't tie one panel securely and our little doeling slid out through the gap...then grazed right beside the fence until I put her back in.

Now I'm thinking that goats are like chickens --- they don't want to put in the energy to escape as long as you keep them fat and happy.  The big question becomes: Can we keep the honysuckle buffet coming all winter?  Only time will tell!

Posted Thu Oct 23 07:34:55 2014 Tags:
close up of cute newt

We used a kiddie pool for the ducks when we first got them, but it mostly got used as a place for frogs to meet and mate this year.

Dumping the pool was bad news for a bunch of late tadpoles, but we managed to transfer the above cute newt to the Sky Pond for his new Winter home.

Posted Wed Oct 22 15:29:13 2014 Tags:

Opening a fridge root cellar

"Would you mind putting up an article about the pros and cons of making and using your Fridge Root Cellar?" --- John


This is a very timely comment because many of you are probably trying to figure out what to do with all of those root crops (and fall fruits).  I'll hit the highlights in this post, but if you want to dig deeper, I've also set my ebook version on sale to $1.99 this week so you can learn the rest of the story for very little cash.  (I guess that would turn your replica into a $12 root cellar?)  And while you're over there, you'll probably want to snap up Low-Cost Sunroom, which is free today!

Humid conditions within a root cellar
Anyhow, back to the point.  The advantages of our fridge root cellar are pretty obvious.  It was cheap and easy to build and it really works.  I particularly love how accessible the contents are --- the cook in your family will be thrilled to be able to just pop open the door like you would in a powered refrigerator and remove a few carrots or a head of cabbage.  And the dampness of the earth means that your roots stay crisp and delicious for months after harvest.

Keeping a root cellar from freezing with a light bulb
$10 Root CellarThe downsides are relatively minor, but they are present.  We use a very small amount of electricity to ensure that the contents of our fridge root cellar don't freeze when outside temperatures drop below the mid-teens Fahrenheit.  If you lived in Alaska, you'd probably have to do a lot more.  And a fridge root cellar won't do much during the summer months, so you'll need a different storage method for your spring carrots.  (I just stick them in the real fridge inside.)  Finally, youtube viewers will call you white trash if you post a video showing how to build a fridge root cellar, and your neighbors might feel the same way, so this project is not for the thin-skinned.

I hope that helps you make your fridge-root-cellaring decision!  And I'd love to see some reader photos of your own incarnations of the cheap root-storage device if anyone's given our method (or something related) a try.  Email me at anna@kitenet.net and I'll share your root cellars with our readers (and maybe even add them to the next edition of the book if they're unique enough!).

Posted Wed Oct 22 07:12:26 2014 Tags:
how to improve on the isolation coop design

We retired some old hens today.

They made it to the ripe age of 1.5.

We had some escapes during the process. I think that could be fixed by making the top of the kill coop so we could open only one half at a time.

Posted Tue Oct 21 15:42:11 2014 Tags:
Yellow jackets on fava beans

I've been noticing little snippets of cover-crop observations lately, none of which is quite enough to make its own post.  But maybe you won't mind a hodge podge.

The photo above shows how the yellow jackets are swarming around unopened fava-bean buds.  I assume they're stealing nectar somehow, a bit like the ants I noticed on okra flowers a few years ago.  Presumably unrelated to the yellow jackets, our fava beans have been blooming for weeks, but keep dropping the ovaries without setting fruit, so they might not be a good edible in our location after all.

Cutting oats for goats

Then there's the observation two of you made in comments, that the puny fava beans between my sunflowers are due to allelopathy.  I hadn't realized that sunflowers were allelopathic, but the internet suggests that is indeed the case, and that water dripping off sunflower leaves can carry chemicals that make surrounding plants do poorly.  I guess sunflowers aren't the best candidate for multi-species cover-cropping campaigns!

My last observation is four-footed.  Goats love oat leaves so much that I've been earmarking a large proportion of that cover crop for goat treats.  I can't help it!  I know the soil loves oat biomass too, but when Artemesia blats at me, I give in and provide any treat I can think of.  In case you're curious, my ability to spoil animals is nearly unparalleled....

Posted Tue Oct 21 07:28:10 2014 Tags:
shitake mushroom drying

I found several shitake mushrooms hiding in the weeds today.

They were a little too damp, but a couple of hours in the Excalibur fixed that.

Posted Mon Oct 20 16:18:59 2014 Tags:
Celeste fig

The first figs on our Celeste bush started turning maroon a couple of weeks ago, and ever since I've been waiting with baited breath, hoping to taste a new fig variety.  Unfortunately, cool weather has slowed down ripening considerably, and the only summer plants that are still bearing like crazy are our red raspberries.  The Celeste fig seemed to be stuck halfway ripe.

Ripe and unripe figs

With another potential frost forecast, I decided to see if those Celeste figs were tasteable.  I plucked the fruits off the bush, cut them open...and was disappointed to see colorless flesh inside.  Unlike most fruits, the telling color-change on a ripening fig occurs hidden inside --- in the photo above, the fig on the left is a ripe Chicago Hardy fig for comparison.  I guess we'll have to wait until next year to taste a ripe Celeste fig!

In the meantime, I should note that despite last winter's cold killing our Chicago Hardy plant to the ground, we've still enjoyed perhaps a gallon of figs this year.  That harvest doesn't hold a candle to last year's bounty, but it's not bad for a tree that started from the ground up this spring!

Posted Mon Oct 20 07:52:58 2014 Tags:

goat gate latch barrel bolt

The new goat gate uses a Zinc coated 4 inch barrel bolt latch to keep our new girls in.

This pasture is connected to their Star Plate home, where they get tucked into every night before it gets dark.

Posted Sun Oct 19 14:34:21 2014 Tags:
Goats eating oats

When you start providing livestock with free-choice minerals, suddenly the options become a bit overwhelming.  We've narrowed our goats' selections down to:

  • Goat mineralsa pre-mixed goat mineral
  • kelp (for extra trace minerals)
  • table salt (iodized or noniodized is debatable.  We add the extra salt because we chose a mineral mix that's only 11% salt, but you should be aware that some people believe you shouldn't provide additional salt since it might prevent your goats from eating enough of the pre-mixed minerals.  If you do opt for additional salt, sea salt would be a better choice, although more expensive.)
  • baking soda (as a safety valve in case our goats' rumens get out of balance due to eating grain)

Some goat-keepers also provide:

  • Browsing goatnutritional yeast (aka brewer's yeast, for extra protein.  This is more often mixed with a processed feed that provided free choice, though.)
  • Diamond V XPC Yeast Culture (as a probiotic.  This is generally mixed with feed rather than being put out for free-choice eating.)
  • diatomaceous earth (for internal parasite control, although data suggests this may not actually do any good when taken internally)

And if you're worried about your soil being particularly deficient in one or two minerals, presumably you could provide those nutrients free choice as well if you weren't worried about overconsumption.  This last option might hypothetically help remineralize your soil...or you might just end up with a very healthy dog if your canine, like ours, runs along behind the goats to slurp up their "berries."

More cute goats
I'll close with two extra goat shots...because they're cute.  And getting fatter?

Posted Sun Oct 19 08:24:21 2014 Tags:

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