Thanks for the comments on using a
miter saw blade with a weed trimmer.
Most people are like my
neighbor and report problems with it binding up when cutting small
trees which could be a result of not keeping the blade exactly even
during a cut.
Maybe in the future Stihl
will invent some sort of LED indicator you could look at and know which
way to tilt the blade to make the most level cut.
While we refer to our
"lawn" only in parentheses since the grass is full of dandelions,
clover, and whatnot and never gets fertilized (except with the chicken tractor), I do occasionally feel guilty about the grassy areas. Granted, on our farm, grassy garden aisles make sense,
but most like-minded people think all lawns are evil. However, as
I mowed Thursday, I started wondering whether the carbon dioxide coming
from our mower might not be offset by the carbon being sequestered in
the soil as grass blades and roots turn into humus.
Sure enough, independent
scientists (in addition to the lawn-care "scientists" you might expect
to feel this way) report that lawns do act
as carbon sinks. A minimal input lawn like ours that only gets
mowed with no other treatment sequesters about 147 pounds of carbon per
lawn per year (after you subtract out the carbon released by the
mower). The abstract I read didn't mention lawn size, but I'm
assuming they're using the American average of a fifth of an acre, which
matches up with another study that reports each acre of lawn sequesters
a net of 760 pounds of carbon per year.
Of course, cover crops
will put the puny carbon sequestration powers of a lawn to shame.
Sorghum-sudangrass will pump a massive 10,565 pounds of carbon per acre
into the soil, and oilseed radishes don't do so bad either at 3,200
pounds of carbon per acre. In fact, a 120-year-old northeastern
woodland only clocks in around the carbon sequestration powers of
oilseed radishes, and you can still grow tomatoes in the oilseed-radish
ground during the summer.
Which is all a very long
way of saying --- if you're considering making a patio or leaving that
area as lawn, go for the lawn. But if you really want to sequester
carbon fast, plant some cover crops.
Our neighbor mentioned that
he uses a miter saw blade on his weed trimmer.
The arbor hole is the same
diameter as the Ninja
brush blade. Make sure the teeth point to the left to take
advantage of the cutting teeth.
I only tried it on some rag
weed and it was like a hot knife cutting through butter. Our neighbor reported
when he tried it the blade would bind up on even medium sized trees. I
think we don't need the little bit of extra cutting power for such a
huge leap in danger.
I appreciated all of the thoughtful comments on my scarlet runner bean post
last weekend! Several of you correctly pointed out that the
species is actually a perennial, although the distinction won't make
much of a difference for most of us since (like tomatoes) scarlet runner
beans are perennials that act like annuals in temperate climates.
On the other hand, that reminder did point out that not only the green
beans, shelled beans, and flowers, but also the tubers of scarlet runner
beans are edible.
what I wanted to share today is a downside I just discovered of my
beautiful bean planting. Unfortunately, scarlet runner beans seem
to make awesome nurseries for Mexican bean beetles,
as you can tell from the holey leaves in the photo above (and from the
larva that was hiding in a photo in my previous post, repeated to the
left). We use the ultra-simple bean-beetle control method of
succession planting bush beans (explained in more depth in The Naturally Bug-Free Garden),
but adding scarlet runner beans to the mix means that this year's
beetle population exploded and quickly colonized my bush bean
plants. Good thing I'd already frozen several gallons of the
staple crop because the plants will probably soon bite the
dust.... I might try scarlet runner beans again, but this piece of
data suggests I should keep my for-food beans far away from my
for-beauty beans in the future.
On a semi-related note, our experimental fava beans
have come up! The seedlings look more like peas than like beans,
which is probably because fava beans are really a vetch. We hope
to experiment with eating both the fava bean seeds and the scarlet
runner bean seeds at lima bean stage...even though I don't think I've
ever eaten lima beans before in my life. For those of you who are
more experienced --- what kind of introductory recipe would you
When is the best time to pick
We pick them once a week this
time of year after they turn black.
They make yummy sprouts for
greening up tuna salad during the Winter months.
week, the world seems to be chock full of soldier beetles.
Specifically, these goldenrod leatherwings are in a mating frenzy --- I
counted half a dozen on just a few echinacea flowers on Wednesday
With nearly 500 species
of soldier beetles in the U.S., gardeners aren't likely to learn them
all by name. But I'm pretty sure all of the soldier beetles are
either innocuous or beneficial (although some of their larvae are minor problems on fall fruits).
The beneficial species
are handy because the larvae eat slugs and snails while the adults
consume aphids. Other species (like the goldenrod leatherwing)
seem to fixate on nectar instead, but the world can't have too many
(Yes, this post is just an excuse to share pretty bug photos. What can I say --- they're cute!)
Our neighbor with a tractor
has agreed to help us get the truck unstuck.
Today we just looked it over
and developed a plan.
With any luck it will
continue to dry up and make things a little easier.
August is probably the
tastiest time of the year on our farm. This week, we've enjoyed
the first lettuce and red peppers, and the fall round of red raspberries
are starting to be nearly as copious as the blueberries we've been
enjoying for weeks. Three cups of berries per day make perfect desserts.
still eating tomatoes and cucumbers and watermelons (although they're
starting to decline), and have plenty of summer squash, green beans, and
Swiss chard that will continue to go the distance. We're nearly
at the end of our spring cabbage and carrots (which currently live in
the crisper drawer of the fridge), but fall crops are all growing like
gangbusters and promise to replace the spring round soon. In fact,
I saw the first pea flower Monday!
What am I watching with
an eagle eye? Our fig bushes! Last year, the first fig
ripened up at the very beginning of September, and I'm looking forward
to tasting the first few Celeste figs (along with bowlsful of Chicago
Hardy) later this year.
What are you enjoying and looking forward to seeing soon in your own garden?
I installed a firewood guide
on our steel
crate garden wagon today.
The small and medium slots
will help us cut up all the fallen limbs we have.
Our power was out for
about 21 hours Sunday afternoon through Monday morning. That
seemed like the perfect opportunity to try out the new rocket stove that our neighbor gave us!
I'd like to be able to
tell you "I only needed two sticks of wood to scramble our breakfast
eggs," but the truth is that this first iteration of rocket-stove
cookery was a learning experience. What I mostly learned is that
damp wood doesn't fly in rocket stoves --- I didn't really get the fire
blazing until I tracked down the piece of kindling in the middle of the
photo above, which had been sitting in our woodshed for a couple of
years and was bone dry. The sticks that have been drying on the
porch for a week mostly smoldered instead of burning.
Perhaps because I only
ended up using one dry piece of wood, the temperature in the skillet on
top of the rocket stove never got warmer than what equates to about
medium on our electric range. That's fine for scrambling eggs, and
would be great for things like soups, but for my next experiment I look
forward to trying out the skirt that fits around a pot to increase the
stove's efficiency by 25%. I also want to get a more solid handle
on exactly how much wood the rocket stove consumes, although I have to
say that I'm already impressed in that regard.
What was the biggest
surprise about making breakfast on the rocket stove? How much I
enjoyed the fire therapy! Usually, I get a little cranky during
power outages due to internet deprivation, but a dose of fire first
thing in the morning instead set me singing happily as I weeded the
garden. Of course, it doesn't hurt that our Cyberpower Battery Backup combined with my laptop battery means I can enjoy about an hour and a half of blogging time even while the grid is down.
In case you're curious, everything in the freezer
stayed frozen during the outage, despite highs that nearly reached
90. If the juice had stayed off for more than 24 hours, though, we
would have topped off the cold with our generator.
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