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Most visited this week:

Building a bee waterer

Fighting tomato blight with pennies

Square foot gardening rebuttal

How to help chicks during hatching

Moth pupa in the soil


Apr 2013
S M T W T F S
 
       


A year ago this week:

ATV trailer choice

Rye cover crop in the spring

Stihl FS-90R trimmer update

What are the tastiest strawberry varieties?


Apr 2012
S M T W T F S
         


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Bucket handle replacement


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?

Posted Tue Apr 22 15:34:23 2014 Tags:

Carol DeppeAs 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 would.

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 dependable.

Posted Tue Apr 22 12:00:23 2014 Tags:
Strawberry bloom

Frost-damaged strawberry flowerLess 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.

Frost-damaged apple flower

Opening kiwi budThe 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 this year?

Posted Tue Apr 22 07:26:04 2014 Tags:
Tomato seedlings


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 tomatoes?

Posted Mon Apr 21 16:29:47 2014 Tags:

The Resilient GardenerI'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.

Posted Mon Apr 21 12:01:15 2014 Tags:

Chicks on pastureWhen 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.

Posted Mon Apr 21 07:26:10 2014 Tags:
close up of creek powered sprinkler

Running the creek sprinklers all day felt like a good way to celebrate Easter.

Posted Sun Apr 20 15:26:13 2014 Tags:
Watering asparagus

My weather guru reports that (despite the high groundwater from a wet winter), spring 2014 has been unusually dry.  As in previous years, this sets up a feedback loop, which in the current instance will likely lead to a hot, dry summer.

Honeyberry flowerI have to admit, even though I don't like heat that much, I do like this forecast.  From a gardening perspective, it's much easier to add water than to take it away, so a hot, dry summer could mean lots of tomatoes and other crops that sometimes flounder in our wet climate.  Plus, we might finally be able to drive the truck back to our core homestead, making it much easier to stock up on firewood, manure, and other essentials.

In the short term, the forecast was simply a reminder to pull out the sprinklers.  I knew the ground was getting dry, but didn't realize quite how parched the garden had become until Kayla and I were out weeding Friday.  Maybe some artificial rain will tempt those asparagus spears to push the rest of the way out of the soil?

Posted Sun Apr 20 07:55:59 2014 Tags:
Huckleberry sitting on Swiss Chard seedlings

A crushed Swiss Chard seedling is a small price to pay for the help Huckleberry provides in the garden at this time of year.

Posted Sat Apr 19 17:39:16 2014 Tags:
Paperback interior

Readers of my book blog will know that I considered signing back on with my old publisher to make Naturally Bug-Free available as a print book, but decided to self-publish this paperback instead so I could maintain the e-rights.

Naturally Bug-FreeWhile making that decision, I spent a couple of weeks turning the interior into a work of art, with big color pictures that should really suck you in (even though the paper isn't glossy).  And then I decided to also make a black-and-white edition for those of you who can't afford the high price tag of the color version.

The black-and-white copies are on sale for only $4.99 on Amazon, and the full color version is on sale for $16.62.  Both are eligible for Amazon's usual free shipping offers.  Plus, you get a free copy of the ebook through Amazon's matchbook program with the purchase of either paper edition, so you can see those color pictures even if you buy the cheaper black and white edition on paper.


To celebrate (and spread the word), I'm running a giveaway --- one lucky reader will win a signed color paperback copy of Naturally Bug-Free, a starter culture of kefir, a Walden Effect t-shirt (only sizes medium, large, or 2XL are now available), and a seed starter pack (containing some of our favorite vegetable varieties).  That's a $72.49 value just for spending a minute plugging my new paperback.  Use the form below to enter, and thanks for your help!
a Rafflecopter giveaway

Posted Sat Apr 19 06:14:20 2014 Tags:

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