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Jun 2015

Most visited this week:

Fighting tomato blight with pennies

Building a bee waterer

How many batteries do I need for my solar panels?

How to make a fly trap

How to help chicks during hatching

Jun 2014

A year ago this week:

White leghorn hen problems

Apple varieties that don't get cedar apple rust

Chicken coop rain barrel

Saving seeds from hybrid cucumbers

Jun 2013

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Early transparent apple

Espaliered apple tree

In my last post, I left you at the train station, but my girl's day out wasn't over quite so soon. Mom and Maggie brought me home for supper...and to ooh and aah over their dwarf apple tree.

I can't remember the exact dates, but I'm guessing this tree has been in the ground for only three years. It's trained as a natural-form espalier, and due to the city location (pavement holds heat), late spring freezes don't harm the blooms. You can see the result...a tree dripping with apples even after about a dozen fruits have been harvested. I'm green with envy!
Goat poetry
The other excitement major enough to keep me away from my milking for an extra half hour was tasting Lamb Chop's first culinary debut. I brought Maggie a pound of ground goat meat the morning of our adventure, and while Mom and I were on the train, Maggie was cooking up a storm. The result was so delectable that I thawed out some chops, marinated them, and cooked them up for me and Mark the next day.

The consensus is that 3.75-month-old goat tastes every bit as good as lamb...possibly even better. There's no gamy flavor (although the meat is very slightly tougher than lamb) and the fat-to-meat ratio is the best of all the pastured meats we've tried so far (purchased lamb and beef and hunted venison).

Goat versus lamb meat

As for cost --- the $55 we paid to the slaughterhouse was very much worth it. We ended up with 26 pounds of goat meat (which I think includes the weight of the bones I requested to have returned to me for broth-making), and the thinly sliced steaks and ground meat will definitely making cooking with our homegrown chevon much easier. Considering that we've been willing to pay top dollar for pastured lamb in the past, the slaughterhouse fee is Pair of goatsquite acceptable for meat that is otherwise nearly free. Suddenly, I'm wishing Abigail had popped out two kids instead of one, and I'm looking forward to an even larger goat harvest next summer.

Finally, I should end by mentioning that there doesn't seem to be a perfect age for harvesting goats for meat. A quick search of the internet turns up dates ranging from two months to two years, with the data that growth starts to slow (meaning the meat gets much tougher and feed costs rise if you're purchasing food) at an age of about five to six months. So, even if Lamb Chop hadn't been making my life more difficult, butchering him at four months was probably a relatively good idea.

And, despite my angst at the time, I haven't experienced a single qualm as we gorge on our first buckling's meat. Instead, I fall more and more in love with our caprine homestead addition every day. The only real question is --- which is the most valuable goat product? Milk, manure, or meat?

Posted Tue Jun 30 07:08:14 2015 Tags:
Lucy and me cutting tree down

We're getting a little behind schedule on our firewood cutting.

The Oregon battery powered chainsaw has been my main saw since the gas powered Stihl developed compression problems and had to be put out to pasture.

Posted Mon Jun 29 16:07:01 2015 Tags:
Secret Worlds box set

I don't usually bore you with too many book posts, but I'm hoping you'll bear with a bit more publishing news. First of all, if you missed last week's summer sale post, Homegrown Humus is marked down to 99 cents for one more day, you've got two days left to snap up Thrifty Chicken Breeds on sale, Pasture Basics went on sale this morning, and Growing into a Farm will join the 99-cent ranks on Thursday.

But that's not what I really want to tell you about this afternoon. Instead, I'm escaping the world of homesteading for a few minutes in order to share Aimee Easterling's big news. I've been helping Aimee publish her novels through Wetknee Books, and one of those titles is now included in a box set that went on sale this morning. For a limited time, you can snap up all 21 novels for only 99 cents, meaning that even speed readers like me could have a whole month of reading for less than a buck. What a great deal!

Secret Worlds box set teaser

The overarching goal is to help the box set hit the USA Today and New York Times bestseller lists. We have the first of these in the bag (we hope), but it's going to take some serious book-selling if we want Aimee to be able to call herself a New York Times bestseller.

Girl in greenTo that end, I hope you'll take a minute to share the news with anyone who enjoys paranormal fantasy. And, if you wrote a review of Shiftless when it first went live, I hope you'll take a minute to copy and paste that review over onto the box set page. Then email me with a link to your review by the end of the day today and I'll put your name in the hat. One lucky reviewer will be receiving signed paperback copies of both of Aimee's werewolf books (or, if you prefer, of The Naturally Bug-Free Garden and The Weekend Homesteader). I hope that sweetens the pot and makes you more likely to spend three minutes at the keyboard this afternoon.

Book sales are what give me the leisure to experiment in the garden all day and share my learnings with you, so I really appreciate your efforts to make Aimee's box set a success.
And thank you so much for bearing with this commercial break!

Posted Mon Jun 29 14:47:11 2015 Tags:
Steam engine

Between morning and evening milkings Saturday, I collected my mom and went back in time to the nineteenth century. The age of steam!

Old and new trains

Mom and MaggieBack when steam trains were starting to go out of style, the Tennessee Valley Railroad Museum started buying up engines and passenger cars in an effort to keep at least a few of these old-timey trains on the rails. They renovated the steam trains, and now you can take short or slightly longer trips behind a coal-powered locomotive. When I saw that a day trip was leaving from Bristol (1.25 hours from our farm and a five minute walk from my mom's house), I was hooked. My summer adventure had been decided!

Appalachian farm country

After enjoying the rush of watching the steam locomotive back the train up to the historic Bristol train station, Mom and I climbed aboard and settled in to watch the scenery pass by. Although we were paralleling a minor highway (11E) the whole way, it was intriguing to see the countryside from a different perspective. Even just a few miles from the highway, the landscape was pastoral, full of cattle pastures, ancient farm houses, and the occasional backyard garden.

Tennessee mountains

I'm pretty sure I noticed someone emulating Salatin's egg-mobile along with an example of Bartholomew's Square Foot Gardening method. There were blooming mimosas and trumpet vines, one wild deer, and at least a hundred interested people parked at crossroads with cameras in hand, ready to record the steam locomotive's charismatic presence (and to wave us on our way).

Me smiling

About halfway through the journey, Mom and I decided it was time to explore! So we set out to walk to the commissary car in the middle of the train, four cars forward. I loved the gaps between cars, where you could hear the wheels turning beneath you and felt closer to the world whooshing by outside.

Bull's Gap festival

And then, before we knew it, we'd reached our destination --- the tiny town of Bulls Gap, Tennessee. It felt like all 719 residents were involved in welcoming us with a festival erected in our honor. There were tents full of sale items, two museums opened for our perusal, and a delightful bluegrass band playing live music.

Bulls Gap, TN

Yes, with nearly a quarter of the town's population living below the poverty line, I'm sure the goal was to grab some much-needed tourist dollars. But the event had the feel of a down-home welcome anyway, and Mom and I dove right in.

Old wringer washer

Old seed packetsThe museums were a little too packed for comfort (at least for this introvert), but the homeplace of Archie Campbell was more my style. The house is furnished with period stoves, beds, and other paraphernalia, and nothing is marked as hands-off. You can play with the wringer washer and hand-cranked record player and can pick through ancient packets of flower seeds to enjoy the artwork. If you're ever in the area, I recommend dropping by Bulls Gap to see for yourself.

Train painted on saw

Back in the melee of tents, Mom picked up a book by a local herbalist (which came with a free plant), and then we marveled over a scene painted on a saw blade. The section photographed above shows the very engine we rode into town behind.

Mom eating blueberry

We were allotted an hour in Bulls Gap, which was just about right. Although the train folks kindly provided us box lunches before we reached our destination, I'd also packed homegrown goodies since I don't trust the outside world to feed me properly anymore. So Mom and I munched on cucumber sticks, blueberries, and brownies, washing it down with slowly-thawing jars of frozen goat's milk. I felt a bit bad for the folks trying to sell us hot dogs, popcorn, and soft drinks...but, really, which snack would you prefer?

Train coming around the bend

And then engine 4501 pulled back into the Bulls Gap downtown and we climbed aboard.

Mom in front of the train

(Here's an extra photo of Mom with her plant in front of the locomotive, just because.)

Looking ahead

The ride home was quieter as we all drifted back into the beauty of the surrounding scenery.

Home in the rain

And just when I was starting to think that Abigail would be pissed if I was gone much longer, we pulled up to the Bristol station in a pounding rain. Maggie had kindly brought the car down to pick us up so we didn't get soaked, and she'd cooked up Lamb Chop's right front leg into a delicious supper.

But more on that later since this post is already far too long. In the meantime, I hope you enjoyed coming along for the ride!

Posted Mon Jun 29 07:40:13 2015 Tags:
scarlet runner beans

The scarlet runner beans are over 7 feet tall.

I'll bet they could go as high as 50 feet under the right conditions?

Posted Sun Jun 28 14:09:27 2015 Tags:
Compost pile of weeds

I often use garden weeds to hold down newspaper or cardboard kill mulches around berries or to lower weed pressure under large fruit trees. But the weeds were growing faster than I could use them in June, so this week I gathered up two days worth of weeds to make a compost pile.

The photo above shows the pile before I added a bucket of bokashi-food-scraps and another two wheelbarrow-loads of weeds on top. Next up --- daily urine deposits to start rotting down the relatively high-carbon compost pile. It sure was fun to mound up my weeds, so I might make another compost pile next week!


In other soil-related news, Mark had the bright idea of solarizing the last remaining weed patch within our core homestead. This area gets mowed maybe once a year, and in between it tends to grow up into blackberries and ragweed. My hard-working husband whacked the weeds to the ground and then we laid down a sheet of plastic to see if this technique can work its magic in an area with much higher weed pressure than we've tried it on previously.

Washing green beans

And now that you've seen the weediest parts of our core homestead, I'll end with a happier photo --- the summer's first green beans. Sauted with homegrown garlic and a bit of salt, they were delicious!

Posted Sun Jun 28 07:56:07 2015 Tags:

This is the year we'll be giving up on rabbiteye blueberries and replacing them with more northern highbush.

Posted Sat Jun 27 16:04:32 2015 Tags:
Botanical postcards

I used to write letters to a few college friends and family members long-hand. The trouble is that, in this age of computers, writing by hand feels terribly slow, so we all got behind in our correspondence and began to consider the letters a chore. Plus, it's hard to fill a letter with unique information now that I share 90% of my daily thoughts with the world on our blog.

Enter the postcard. This summer, I've been playing with these beautiful botanical postcards, dashing off a line whenever I think of it and sending them to all and sundry. Paper correspondence quickly became fun once again!

Kid cards

The first few weeks, it felt like I was fishing. I'd send out postcards to people I hadn't heard from in a while...then wait to see if they'd bite. My mom and I soon settled into a weekly postcard routine, and my grand-niece and grand-nephew came through with the amusing replies above. Glad I'm not the only one who likes strawberries!

I know this post has very little to do with homesteading. But the moral is --- if something used to be fun but became a chore, shake it up and make it fun again! And, if you can't think of your own unique spin, you could do far worse than joining me in the summer of the postcard.

Posted Sat Jun 27 06:00:11 2015 Tags:

tomato close up

This is shaping up to be one of our best tomato years ever!
Posted Fri Jun 26 15:18:48 2015 Tags:

Pair of goats
One of the most joyful parts of having our herd whittled back down to two is that I can return to morning tethering. I still take the girls out for their woodland grazing in the evening, so now I just tether until Abigail grows bored about an hour into her grazing period. To me, our doe doesn't look full after sixty minutes of tethering, but I have to accept that our goat knows what she wants.

Goat and dog

Which isn't to say that our pair of capricious beasties don't stop for a few more mouthfuls of succulent treats on the way back to the coop. Here, Lucy is reminding the goats that the porches (a couple of feet to the left of the photo) belong to her.

Goats eating alfalfa

A few mouthfuls of alfalfa make a good post-breakfast dessert. Then back to the coop to nap and chew their cuds until after the humans' dinner. Such a fun way to start the day, with an hour weeding beside the goats!

Posted Fri Jun 26 07:15:59 2015 Tags:

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