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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
S M T W T F S
   
   


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
S M T W T F S
 
     


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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:
mark Fig height
documenting the height of our Chicago Hardy fig

How tall did our Chicago Hardy fig get this year?

Just shy of 10 feet, even after the hard frost it suffered last year.

The Celeste was almost half as high.

Posted Sat Oct 18 16:04:44 2014 Tags:
Hay field
Old house and pond
Logging road

A friend of a friend is selling some land about twenty minutes from our farm, and I promised to spread the word in case any of you were interested.  It's priced at a thousand bucks an acre and has a lot of potential, full of ponds, forested mountain-land, and open fields.  There's an electric hookup on site and spring water piped down to an old house, plus logging roads make for relatively easy access.  Here's the Craigslist ad for more information.

Livestock pond

At 177 acres, the property has the potential to be bought by several homesteaders and managed as an eco-village or education center.  Or, perhaps more realistically, if two or three homesteading families went in on the property together, you could share the land without anyone digging their financial hole too deep.  If you're interested in these shared options, leave a comment below and chat with each other --- it would make my day if several of our readers got together and relocated nearby!

Posted Sat Oct 18 07:50:12 2014 Tags:

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