The thrill of picking up a box of Anna's newest paperback at the mailbox can only compare to when the first box of Weekend Homesteaders arrived. A few of these books will be gifts, but most are earmarked for giveaways here on the blog.
Nearly as good was the smile
on Anna's face when she saw that some of our readers had purchased paper
volumes of Naturally Bug-Free. If you're on the fence about
getting your own copy of this beautiful and informative text, Amazon has
marked down both the color and black-and-white versions another 5%. Act now while they're on sale.
Carol Deppe puts her advice on garden resiliency
to work by growing different staples to feed herself at different times
of the year. Corn and dried beans fill her belly in the spring;
she eats fruit all summer; potatoes, winter squash, and fruit feed her
in the fall; and potatoes and winter
squash are on the menu in the winter. To these garden staples,
Deppe adds duck eggs (and a bit of meat) from
her flock, along with some purchased pastured meat and canned tuna.
Deppe's staples are one one of the reasons I didn't get as much out of
her book as I'd hoped to. Although I like the lack of wheat in
Deppe's diet (due to her struggles with celiac's disease), Mark and I
strive for a higher protein diet,
so Deppe's focus on potatoes and other high-carb staples didn't sit
well with me. I also don't really believe in the notion that you
can stay healthy primarily based on supplements, so her use of cod liver
oil to replace most meat in her diet doesn't seem like a nutritious
On the other hand, I was
intrigued by how well Deppe seems to listen to her body. She notes
that she feels most full after eating foods high in water and fiber,
and she used her own varying hunger levels to discover that she needed
to eat animal-based omega 3s. After noticing that plant-based
sources of omega 3s didn't fulfill her cravings, she did some research
and discovered that only some people are able to turn 18-carbon plant
omega 3s into 20- and
22-carbon animal omega 3s. Perhaps that's why some people crave
meat much more than others do?
There are a lot more gaps than usual to fill in the garden this spring. The cold, wet winter killed two-thirds of our potato onions
and softneck garlic (although our hardneck garlic, Music, is plugging
right along unhindered). A dry spell when I didn't think to water
made for holey germination in the carrot and Swiss chard beds, and Huckleberry's hard work scratched up some peas and poppies. Time to fill in the gaps!
For some crops, it's not
too late to just replant. I scattered another round of carrot
seeds on the appropriate bed and popped Swiss chard seeds into hoed rows
(after teasing apart the one seed cluster that had fully germinated,
leading to three seedlings in one spot). There were enough poppy
seedlings clustered too close together that I could just transplant them
to fill in the gaps, and then I slipped broccoli starts into the holes
between garlic plants.
that, I started getting whimsical. How about a few carrots in the
gaps in the pea beds? Maybe some Red Russian kale in the spaces
between potato onions?
The trick with filling in
gaps is to add crops that will mature at about the same time as the
vegetables that originally owned the bed. You also don't want to
plant something that's going to get too big, shading out the vegetables
you really care about, and you definitely don't want to add anything
that will need trellising. So no cabbages, even though I have
plenty more starts on hand, and nothing that will need more than two
months to mature. (The carrots are small hybrids, listed at 54
days to harvest.)
I seeded and transplanted
Monday and Tuesday, knowing a rainy spell was due to blow in Tuesday
afternoon. Hopefully water from the sky will sprout my seeds and
settle my transplants, filling the garden with life.
The handles seem to be the weakest link in our bucket brigade. Anna made this replacement grip out of a feed sack and tape last year, and it has held up well.
Some buckets have lost their entire handle, though. Maybe rope replacements will do the trick?
As the subtitle of her book attests, the primary theme of Carol Deppe's book
is finding ways to grow food that will work even when times are
tough. If you can't afford store-bought groceries, break your leg
and can't spend every minute in the garden, and have to deal with crazy
weather, would you still be bringing in a harvest? Carol Deppe
What's her secret?
Mark would sum it up in one word --- backups. Deppe goes into more
depth, recommending diverse plantings of multiple varieties and types
of crops, no single main crop, succession planting,
using short-season varieties to work around erratic weather, and
including animals in your homestead. Due to climate change, she
recommends not counting on crops that are on the edge of their hardiness
range in your area, and instead says you should focus on crops that are
being grown commercially by your neighbors since these tend to be
Less than a week after the hard freeze,
I'm able to start assessing what got nipped. The bad news is that
the strawberries were harder hit than the numbers suggested --- lots of
flowers are opening and most have black centers, meaning they aren't
going to turn into fruits. On the other hand, the first undamaged
flowers are also starting to open, which means we only lost about the
first four of five days worth of strawberry fruits.
apples are also starting to open flowers that were tightly closed last
week. Most are clearly damaged, with brown stamens, but a few look
okay like the one above. The big question will be whether the
female parts of the flowers survived --- it doesn't take all that much
pollen to fertilize every tree, but if the ovaries are damaged, there
won't be any fruit.
I was also heartened to
see that a few of the hardy kiwi buds were slowpokes and missed the
freeze. Maybe we'll still get a chance to taste homegrown kiwis
Two parts manure and one part stump dirt
will keep these tomato seedlings bright green until they go into the
ground. I wonder if hefty transplants will turn into extra early
I've had Carol Deppe's The Resilient Gardener
on my shelf for a couple of years, but only read it from cover to cover
this spring. Why the wait? I'm ashamed to say that part of
my foot-dragging was due to an assumption that the book was very dry
since the only photos are in a central insert. Despite lack of
images in the text, though, the book is very engagingly written.
A more important issue is
that Deppe and I have very different gardening and dietary habits, so
much of her information isn't relevant to me. In many ways, she
follows the gardening advice of Steve Solomon,
which is probably a great way to grow in the Pacific Northwest, but
doesn't suit our farm or palates. On the other hand, it might suit
many of you better than it did me --- the information is definitely
well-researched and is based on personal experience, which is what I
always look for in a homesteading book.
With all of those caveats, what finally got me to crack the cover? Now that we're going to try ducks
(arriving this Friday!), I figured I should go straight to the source
and learn from an expert. Stay tuned for helpful hints on ducks
and more in this week's lunchtime series.
moving chickens to a new home, I generally lock them inside their
night-time accommodations for one or two days so they home in on the
spot. After that, I open the door and let them roam.
Our chicks loved the
starplate coop so much, they didn't even feel the need to go outside for
the first eight hours of door-opened freedom. Instead, they
enjoyed the inside perches --- despite their small size, multiple little chickens hung out on the top-most roost.
Eventually, though, the
whole flock came tumbling out the door and wandered a full ten feet away
from the hen house. The ground is still winter-brown in this
shady spot close to the hillside, but our chicks enjoyed pecking at new
leaves coming out on tiny tree saplings.
Soon, we'll have the
chicks fenced into rotational paddocks, but for now they're small enough
not to cause much damage if just allowed to free range. As long
as they're not in the garden, this is probably my favorite chick age ---
all they need is to be shut in at night, given free-choice feed and a poop-free waterer, and they're golden.
Running the creek
sprinklers all day felt
like a good way to celebrate Easter.
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