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Fighting tomato blight with pennies

DIY low budget geothermal cooling

How many batteries do I need for my solar panels?

Electric club car trouble

Automatic chicken door

Jul 2015

A year ago this week:

Can you make ricotta out of mozzarella whey?

When to stop milking goats

ATV oil observations

Onion harvest

Jul 2014

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Tree mulch

Last year, we installed landscape fabric beneath most of our oldest row of high-density apples. The idea was to cut weeding work...but I'm afraid the plastic mulch also appears to be cutting vitality.

Apple branches

It's hard to be sure whether the fabric is at fault because I have several different apple varieties growing in this area and there's some fireblight in the mix. But the apples that were mulched with straw are thriving while those amid the landscape fabric have lost most of their leaves.

Leafless branchesI suspect water is the culprit --- or lack thereof. Summer rains tend to fall hard and fast in our area, meaning that a lot of that liquid likely runs off the landscape fabric despite the small holes meant to allow rain to soak through. In contrast, straw grabs and holds the liquid, topping up the trees' reserves slowly over the course of several days.

I've pulled back the fabric so I can topdress with manure, and I'll probably end up replacing it with a biodegradable weed barrier of cardboard coated with straw. If we had an irrigation system that hit these trees, the plastic might not be a bad idea. But, for now, I'm going to stick with what works.

Posted Wed Jul 27 07:11:39 2016 Tags:
Row cover fabric

Brussels sprouts are growing fast under their row covers.

In about a month, we'll top the plants so they start producing baby cabbages for winter meals.
Posted Tue Jul 26 16:19:00 2016 Tags:

I was a bit dubious of our vet's diagnosis that Aurora was merely suffering from internal parasites. After all, would she be fine one day and then nearly comatose the next in that case? But now I'm thinking he was right. Because ever since being flushed out with a vast array of pharmaceuticals, our doeling has been growing faster and plumper every day.

Walking goats

Her mama, on the other hand, is starting to drop below the perfect 3.0 body-condition score. That's perfectly normal with heavy milkers, but I'm still going to try to plump her up with some extracurricular grazing in hopes we can keep her fat enough to Full belly clubmilk through the winter.

It's a long shot for a first freshener to milk through, but it sure would be nice not to have to worry about the hassle of breeding and kidding this fall and next spring. August and early September will be the deciding time because I'd like to breed around Halloween if we're going to have to dry Artemesia off and give her time to recover before turning her back into a milk jug once again.

Posted Tue Jul 26 07:11:31 2016 Tags:
lucy going through pet door.

Of course our new gate would not be complete without a Lucy access door.

Posted Mon Jul 25 15:40:09 2016 Tags:
Summer collage

Despite the current bone-dry conditions, mushrooms are popping up all over the woods.


There's a certain zen wonder in not being able to identify most of them but still enjoying their beautiful shapes and colors.

Goat eating fallen leaves

Meanwhile, the goats are much more interested in the first golden tulip-tree leaves filtering to the ground. To each her own!

Posted Mon Jul 25 06:43:21 2016 Tags:
Onion harvest

I usually wait to harvest our onions until the leaves have dried down. But the summer abruptly turned wet and I began noticing a few signs of rot. Time to get our precious bulbs out of the ground before they go bad!

I harvested perhaps three-quarters of the onions Tuesday, filling up three bushel baskets and then transferring the contents over onto one of our curing racks. Maybe I actually planted too many this year?

Posted Sun Jul 24 07:09:58 2016 Tags:

Solarization is still a major time saver for us.

Sometimes the plants end up winning when the plastic is on its last leg.

Posted Sat Jul 23 14:41:06 2016 Tags:
Old-fashioned thresher

Belts and gearsKayla and I took in the antique tractor show at Fairview in Abingdon Friday. It was another perfect girl's day out, with an extremely well-behaved baby, fascinating old implements (like this thresher --- look at all those belts!), and quite a bit of historical education as a bonus.

Growing flax

OuthouseThe interpretive signs were top-notch, full of information I'd never considered. For example, did you know that the crescent moon traditionally shown on an outhouse was meant to designate the lady's room? Way back when the average American couldn't read, stars were for guys and moons for girls...but men's outhouses tended to get run down and didn't last. Thus the crescent-moon-marked outhouses dominating the colonial landscape.

And speaking of outhouse traditions, hollyhocks were usually planted around the outhouse as a way to draw the attention without forcing a lady to request directions to the necessary. Lamb's ears with their silvery ears did the same job at night (while also providing backup toilet paper).

Oh, and the other picture in this section is flax. I was proud of myself for guessing its identity...and Kayla was proud of herself for capturing the plant matter before it made it into baby D.'s gaping mouth.

Organic dyes

Plant dyesIn the air-conditioned comfort of the interpretive log house, we took in several beautiful displays pertaining to history and crafts. On the history front, I was intrigued to learn that I-81 (the big highway that runs through our region) began as a buffalo trail but soon became a major thoroughfare between Philadelphia and the Frontier.

In the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, the so-called Great Philadelphia Road was used for wagon trains of settlers (many from Europe) moving to new land and also for people from our region driving their sheep, pigs, and cattle to market in the City of Brotherly Love. Can  you imagine making that 500-mile trek at the tail end of a herd of swine?

Percheron horse

Pig overallsThe upshot? Best girl's day out yet! Think we can top this in August, Kayla?

Posted Sat Jul 23 07:24:32 2016 Tags:
chicago hardy fig

Our Chicago Hardy Fig is finally bouncing back from 2 Winters ago.

The highest point is just over 6 feet.

Posted Fri Jul 22 15:10:56 2016 Tags:

Soil Amendments for the Organic GardenI'm excited to announce that the final book in my Ultimate Guide to Soil series is now available for sale!

This one is long and in-depth but very heavy on the pictures so hopefully still easy to read. In addition to rundowns on more conventional garden amendments, I've summed up our experiences with bokashi, black soldier flies, humanure, biochar, and much more.

Here are the buy links in case you want to give it a try:

What early reviewers had to say:

"Thanks to her Ultimate Guide to Soil series, I am enjoying robust plant growth and harvesting gorgeous vegetables and herbs from my garden." --- M

"I know more about composting and soil amendments now than I did before reading this - and I've been composting for 30 years, so I thought I knew it all!" --- Colin B. McGee

Thank you in advance for any support, from buying a copy to telling a friend to leaving a review. You are why I write.

Posted Fri Jul 22 06:51:26 2016 Tags:

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