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Moth pupa in the soil

How to help chicks during hatching

Fighting tomato blight with pennies

Square foot gardening rebuttal

Automatic chicken door

May 2015

A year ago this week:

Feeding tree leaves to goats

Teva sandal surgery

Grafting persimmons

PEX tubing drip irrigation system

May 2014

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Drying herbs

My little herb bed on the south-facing side of the trailer is doing beautifully this year. On the recommendation of one of our readers, I started some Greek oregano from seed last year and found to my delight that it did indeed have much more of the flavor I was looking for than the plain old oregano I'd grown before. Throw in some sage, lavender, thyme, chamomile, fennel, chives, and a few flowers and I have a pretty and delicious space right outside the back door.

Cooking with herbs

Being so close to the kitchen, the herb garden reminds me to pick a little flavor for meals that I might otherwise skip. I'm also air-drying a few of the more aromatic leaves while they're at their peak since last year's dried basil really hit the spot over the winter.

Mostly, though, I'm just enjoying the low-work, high-reward growing space. There's nothing quite like zone 0.5 homesteading projects that really work.

Posted Thu May 26 06:20:14 2016 Tags:
sweet corn risk

It was a risk planting this sweet corn on April 20th but I think we're in the clear.

Posted Wed May 25 15:02:06 2016 Tags:
Queen cells

I hate to admit it, but I got a bit disheartened by our bees and ignored them for a solid month. The thing is, I actually lost track of how many swarms materialized and then flew away, never to be seen again. (Four, I think?) It was pretty amazing when I was watching Artemesia and family graze in the oats and a mass of bees came flying just over our heads, a few landing on the trailer roof before leaping back into the air. But my rational side knows that each absent swarm is that much less chance of homegrown honey this year.

I seem to use lots of 20/20 hindsight with the bees, but here's a little more. When I opened up our swarming hive in April, I saw lots of queen cells at the bottom of the warre box. I cut off one...then got all worried. If the old matriarch left and I removed all the queen cells, will the new hive perish? So I left the rest in place. As you can see in the image above, though, there were many more queen cells than were really necessary, the likely source of so many afterswarms.

The other hive did swarm too, though. That one had fewer queen cells in it (two or three, I think), probably because there wasn't the gap between warre and langstroth boxes that my converter top created. Honestly, I think that feeding warre hives in the spring just makes them swarm. So if I want to bulk up the hives early in search of honey, I need to hurry up and get those bees back into langstroth boxes so I can checkerboard and use other swarm prevention techniques. (Warre frames just aren't movable enough to use techniques like this with success.)

HoneybeesOn the plus side, the hive that swarmed several times has capped brood and is bringing in lots of pollen. So, fingers crossed that their new queen will finally start laying eggs in the langstroth boxes and I can remove the warre box to complete the conversaion. The other hive swarmed a bit later and is all warre (so harder to tell what's going on inside). But they've got a good bit of honey and will hopefully have new workers soon.

And, all things considered, I don't regret being so engrossed in Artemesia's kidding and in the twins' early childhood that I missed a heaping handful of swarms. If I could go back in time, even knowing what I know now, I'd do it all over again. But maybe next year the two events won't coincide and I'll be a little smarter about early spring bee management. And, who knows, it could still be such a good nectar year that we get honey. Hope springs eternal....

Posted Wed May 25 06:56:36 2016 Tags:
mark Flex Seal
flex seal sealing a trash can lid

I'm trying some Flex Seal to see how long it will keep our new trash can dry.

Posted Tue May 24 15:28:44 2016 Tags:
Strawberry leather

Strawberries are my favorite fruit and fruit is my favorite food group. So you'd think I'd be tempted by out-of-season berries at the grocery store.

The trouble is, homegrown strawberries are so good I now turn up my nose at even the offerings from the local berry farm. Instead, we gorge on delicious red fruits for one month out of the year and we dry a little bit of leather for winter treats.

Since writing that linked-to post, we upgraded to an
Excalibur dehydrator to make it more feasible to dry food in our wet climate. But, otherwise, our method of storing summer sunlight is very much the same.

Posted Tue May 24 07:01:08 2016 Tags:
gate latch

I've changed my mind about this being the best heavy duty gate latch.

The main bar will bend with repeated ramming from a medium sized goat.

Posted Mon May 23 16:02:03 2016 Tags:
Goat kids at play

Although I milked Artemesia for the kids' first two weeks of life, the youngsters quickly grew big enough to take up that slack. Luckily, two weeks of age is also when goatlings are old enough to be locked away for the night, giving the human twelve hours of free milk.

The trouble, as Mark alluded to, was that our kidding stall is not impossible for a determined goat to access. The first night I locked the kids in, I heard distressed crying for about ten minutes...then everything went ominously quiet. Sure enough, when I went up to check on the herd, Artemesia had jumped over the wall to be with her babies. So I opened the gate and put on my thinking cap for a solution.

Milking a goat

We could have bulked up the walls and done our best to keep momma goat out. But I don't like Artemesia to be in distress, and barely being able to see her kids through the lattice gate was clearly too scary for her to handle.

Enter the dog kennel shown here. It worked perfectly --- the twins were a little pissed at not being able to get into mischief overnight, but Artemesia could lie down right beside them and everyone was happy. In fact, our doe gets so relaxed after not having kids crawling all over her for twelve hours, that by day three I stopped locking her head in the stanchion during milking time. With carrots in the hopper, Artemesia's quite content to stand still and let the machine pull out her milk.

Goats nursing

The kids are always anxious to get their breakfast, but they wait semi-patiently until it's their turn. Rather than hand-milking out the last cup or so, I just release the barbarians and they stampede for the udder. Then I take my two or three cups home with a smile --- happy goats make for a happy human!

Posted Mon May 23 07:00:31 2016 Tags:
trash can metal

We added another metal trash can to our feed and seed storage system.

Posted Sun May 22 16:09:46 2016 Tags:
Baby apple

I've been spending a lot of time ogling my apple trees, watching the unexpected fruit swell under the summer sun. But everything isn't rosy in the mini-orchard.....

Dead apple tree

We had three tree deaths this winter, all individuals who simply failed to leaf out as planned when the cold weather broke. It's tempting to blame the losses on variety. The specimen above (Pristine), for example, barely grew last summer due to a terrible case of cedar-apple rust...even though its fellows just showed a few spotted leaves then shrugged off the fungal disease.

Dead espaliers

However, I'm now feeling like the ultimate deciding factor in who thrived and who perished was location. The two trees shown above, like the one in the previous photo, are the individuals closest to our north-facing hillside. And they just happen to be the only trees who perished among all eleven of the 2014 graftees. Hmmm.... I guess that permafreeze, high shade zone just isn't fruit-tree friendly. Good to know, and good to learn on home-grafted trees that cost us no more than a buck apiece.

Posted Sun May 22 06:58:04 2016 Tags:
nice looking image of greenery with moisture

It's nice to know these raspberries will mature around the time our strawberries decide to give up for the year.

Posted Sat May 21 14:11:47 2016 Tags:

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