The Walden Effect: Homesteading Year 5. Farming, simple living, permaculture, and invention.

Homestead Blog


Homesteading Tags

Recent Comments

Blog Archive

User Pages


About Us

Submission guidelines


Walden Effect Facebook page

To get blog posts delivered to your inbox, enter your email address below:

Cattle eating hay

Even just a couple of miles down the road in a less exposed location, mud season is still very real. But up here on our ridge, the soil is bone dry. Clearly, we're going to have to get our irrigation setup working sooner rather than later.

Water meter

To Mark's joy (no jury-rigging solutions out of baling twine and shoestrings!) and my disgust (chlorine, fluoride, energy-intensive, money-squeezing, limited supply!), we're on city water in our new location. I can't recall exactly how much we're allowed to use each month for the base rate --- I think 500 or 600 gallons? So far, we're using about half that, but gardens are thirsty beasts.

Daffodil quick hoops

So we're starting to brainstorm the best solution. The first step will be gutters...but where should we channel the precious off-flow? I go back and forth between spending some cash to build as big a pond as we can fit at the edge of our yard, creating an in-ground cistern out of concrete, or just going the plastic storage tank route. I'm all ears if anyone has first-hand results of any of those options!

Posted Tue Mar 20 06:00:10 2018 Tags:
Anna inspecting a new supply of cardboard.

Anna inspecting the cardboard we picked up on Sunday.

Thank you Kiara for the gift of cardboard (and Mom and Jayne for the recently used stash).

The former might last a week at this point in garden planning. The latter is already long gone.

Posted Mon Mar 19 06:00:09 2018 Tags:
Lettuce seedlings

Our spring frost-free date is supposed to be five days later here than it was in Virginia, so I tweaked my garden spreadsheet to match. Of course, spring planting times are more of an art than a science. It's all about current soil temperature and upcoming rainfall and two-week forecasts...and my mood that day.

To cut a long story short, I direct-seeded my first lettuce seeds two weeks earlier than I did last year in Virginia. They're growing slowly but surely, despite the fact I didn't even slap a quick hoop over them until lows dropped back into the mid twenties sometime last week.

Flat of broccoli seedlings

Meanwhile, my inside seedlings are doing pretty well, considering the fact I let them sit on the floor without lights for way too long. Stems are a bit leggy as a result, and the cat trampling didn't help either. Now that Mark's given them their own shelf and lights, though, I think we're back on track. No, Huckleberry, my grow zone is not your play pen.

Young kale plants

I went ahead and transplanted some baby kale outside to join the few overwintering specimens I have under quick hoop number two.
The older plants are starting to put out enough leaves to provide a small meal occassionally --- so good to have real, flavorful food on our plates again!

Posted Sun Mar 18 06:00:09 2018 Tags:
Truck tarp tie down in the snow.

Our first truck load of compost had a problem with some of the particles blowing away on the ride home.

A tarp tied down with bungee cords helped us get the second truck load home without leaving a trail of compost particles.

Posted Sat Mar 17 06:00:12 2018 Tags:
Basil roots

Potted basilEvery time I go over to Mark's mom's house, I'm impressed by the thriving basil in her kitchen window. In my experience, basil isn't thrilled by winter conditions even indoors. So I asked for tips on keeping this tender herb alive in March.

"The trick," Rose Nell told me, "is lots of water." She places the basil's pot inside a cup, which she keeps at least halfway full of water. Roots expand out from the pot into the water, in essence turning the growing space into a bit of a hydroponics setup.

And it works! The proof is in the pudding...or rather, in the roasted potatoes and salads seasoned with fresh herbs in January, and February, and March. Maybe next winter I'll give it a try, but for now I'm content inviting myself over to enjoy someone else's hard work.

Posted Fri Mar 16 06:00:13 2018 Tags:
Brush clearing for new garden.
Clearing some stunted trees to make room for the new garden.
Posted Thu Mar 15 06:00:47 2018 Tags:
Pruning a peach tree

I'm forcing myself not to plant any trees until this coming winter, once I better understand the lay of our new land. But I started going into fruit-tree withdrawal in early March --- good thing Jayne had a pair of peaches she was willing to let me prune!

Posted Wed Mar 14 06:00:13 2018 Tags:
Rain gauge installation at new place.

We finally got around to installing our Heavy-duty rain gauge on the back porch.

Posted Tue Mar 13 06:00:12 2018 Tags:
Gathering punky wood

I really meant to prep our blueberry bed the instant we landed on our new property. After all, soil acification takes several months, especially in cold winter soil. But getting our water turned on, installing a source of heat, then keeping the pipes from freezing seemed slightly more here it is a week before the bushes arrive and I have no soil ready to put them in.

Which is a long way of saying, before I dive into the rest of this post, please do as I say not as I do. Prepare your blueberry beds months in advance!

Above ground hugelkultur

Okay, caveat aside, back to the point at hand....

Blueberries like three things --- lots of organic matter, lots of water, and lots of acidity. The first two points can be assisted by starting your bed off with a healthy helping of punky wood (placed atop a kill layer of cardboard in this image so we don't need to till). In a perfect world, this wood is already starting to crumble apart, although any logs and limbs dead enough to fall to the forest floor will do in a pinch.

Acidifying compost

Since rotting wood will rob some nitrogen out of the soil for the first couple of years, I'm going very heavy on the nutrients in our blueberry bed. In fact, we're filling in all the gaps between the wood with straight compost...well, straight compost laced with sulfur.

"Sulfur?" you say. "That doesn't sound very natural." Unfortunately, I learned the hard way with our last blueberry patch that natural methods of acidifying the soil aren't quite enough for these acid-loving plants. So I bought five pounds of ferrous sulfate (faster acting than elemental sulfur) and did some back-of-the-envelope math to figure out how much to apply.

Mixing sulfur into compost

Without a pH test and with blueberries hitting the ground in short order, I'm playing it safe and assuming I'll need to top up the sulfur every year for a couple of seasons. To that end, I used one heaping cup per wheelbarrow load of compost (which is much easier to mix if you sprinkle half a cup on top of half a wheelbarrow of compost then repeat with the second half on top of the full load). This assumes the compost has a pH around 6.5, the underlying soil is clay loam, and that you're using ferrous sulfate --- for elemental sulfur, lower the application rate down to two tablespoons per wheelbarrowful of compost.

I guess we'll know by the end of the summer whether the blueberries approve of their new home. We only bought three test plants to get us started, but if they do well I suspect we'll expand.

Posted Mon Mar 12 10:11:33 2018 Tags:
Mushroom drying in an Excalibur dryer.

Anna teaching a group of three neighbor kids how we dry shitake mushrooms.

Posted Sun Mar 11 07:00:11 2018 Tags:

Didn't check back soon enough and unread posts ran off the bottom of the page?  See older posts in the archives.

One very unique homestead, $1,500 per acre, the opportunity of a lifetime