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Most visited this week:

Fighting tomato blight with pennies

Refrigerator root cellar chimney cap

How many batteries do I need for my solar panels?

Smallest wood stoves

Automatic chicken door


Feb 2015
S M T W T F S


A year ago this week:

Why and how to estimate a goat's weight

Box-elder syrup comparison

Best battery disconnect switch

Keeping bugs out of a sap bucket



Feb 2014
S M T W T F S
           
 


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River perch

The forecast said Sunday was going to be the last beautiful day for quite a while. So I packed a lunch and a camera and took to the woods.

Railroad tunnelThe explorer in me likes new trails...but I detest driving long distances in order to hike. So I ended up back at our old stomping grounds --- Sugar Hill in St. Paul.

Luckily, nature had changed the face of the riverside trail since Mark and I last walked it, so there was plenty to explore. Most striking was a tremendous rootball uprooted by a fallen sycamore at the river's edge. I couldn't resist clambering to the top and perching fifteen feet above the ground while listening to the swollen river rush past.

After sunning for a while, then walking another mile to St. Paul falls, I decided to bushwhack back to the parking lot. On the way, I was treated to several shows of cliffside seeps plus icicles in a railroad tunnel. A fun adventure for a sunny Sunday!

Posted Mon Feb 8 07:15:05 2016 Tags:
lucy cold frame
It got warm enough today to give the cold frame greens an hour of fresh air.
Posted Sun Feb 7 15:35:46 2016 Tags:
Seed-starting flat

Onions are probably our biggest vegetable-gardening Achilles heel --- we ran out in January again this year. Wanting to be able to start these Old seed flatsseedlings inside in February was a big part of the impetus for my spare-no-cost improved seed-starting campaign in fact.

So it seems fitting that onions should be the first vegetables to enjoy our new flats. The containers I've been using are literally a decade old, so all are torn and not-quite waterproof. The new white ones are reputed to be a little hardier, although I can tell I'll still need to be careful with them. But maybe they'll be in a little better shape in 2026 when Mark once again talks me into buying new gear?

Seed-starting rows

Onion seedsI didn't use all new supplies, though. I found this wooden stick in Mark's workshop (hopefully it wasn't intended for anything important) and cut it to just the right length to make indented rows in my found stump dirt. Then I meticulously sprinkled in the seeds, half an inch apart. Finally, I added another thin coating of stump dirt atop each row and pressed down gently with my palms to compact the earth.

With potting soil, there'd be a moistening step in there too (preferably before the soil even hits the flats). But stump dirt comes out of the tree at the perfect hydration level for planting seeds.

Seed-starting setup

Mark growled when I took the heating pad out of Lucy's den and put it under my first set of flats. (Hey! That's why we bought the pad in the first place!) So I went ahead and splurged a little further, this time buying a heat mat that's waterproof and is just the right size and shape to fit beneath a seedling tray. My new humidity domes hadn't arrived in the mail yet, so I popped a larger dome we use for rooting perennial cuttings on top and called that flat complete.

Seedling heat matI'll admit that these are going to be some expensive onions since we spent nearly a hundred bucks on new seed-starting supplies. And that doesn't even count the lights (which Mark already had on hand) or the electricity we'll be using in the process.

On the other hand, all of the same equipment will be reused next month for starting broccoli, cabbage, and brussels sprouts. Then, since the flats came in a ten-pack, I'll probably even make soil blocks for watermelons and see if we can't get a crop of those heat-lovers in the ground a little early this year. All told, I'm positive that these supplies will more than pay for themselves many times over during the next decade...and that's not even counting the dose of winter greenery that will boost my spirits as I wait for spring.

Posted Sun Feb 7 07:54:50 2016 Tags:
micro boom pole

My DIY boom pole worked okay, but it turned out to be a little too heavy.

It also created small amounts of noise whenever I shifted my body weight.

The Rode boom pole is the perfect size and weight but if your shock mount is 5/8 then you need to buy a 5/8 male to 3/8 female adapter.

Posted Sat Feb 6 15:39:54 2016 Tags:
Stump dirt with goat

I took advantage of the warm weather to gather some stump dirt for onion seed starting this week. The goats "helped"...which means they poked their noses into the bucket repeatedly, completely confused about why I would waste energy gathering something that wasn't immediately edible.

Chicken tractor on fall oats

The tractored hens also assisted with early garden preparations. Day by day, I pulled the small flock across the downhill side of a high raised bed in the swampy back garden so they could eat up chickweed and scratch up dead oat stalks. This area will go under a quick hoop shortly to preheat the soil for the earliest lettuce and peas.

Posted Sat Feb 6 07:32:24 2016 Tags:
shooting scene for JuryWe helped our neighbor run some lines for a new television series today.
Posted Fri Feb 5 16:14:18 2016 Tags:
Hazel catkins

The first cultivated bloom of the year for us is always the hazel bushes. From a bee standpoint, it's nearly time to look for pollen when you see the catkins begin to loosen and Hazel stamensyellow, meaning that stamens will soon emerge.

I don't think the bush really counts bloom time until a little later, though. The tiny female flowers won't open up until the male flowers are in full bloom, which probably won't be for a couple more weeks yet.

Meanwhile, for those of you keeping track in your own yards, I should mention that hazel is very different from witch hazel. The latter can bloom at any time between late fall and early spring, with the bloom time (according to
Lee Reich) depending on the number of chill hours the tree has enjoyed. Our witch hazels bloomed quite early this winter, which I hope isn't an ominous sign meaning our fruit trees will be similarly precipitous.

Posted Fri Feb 5 07:40:06 2016 Tags:
Bad goats

"Oh, Abigail, why do you have to be so bad!" I exclaimed when I entered the goat shed Monday morning. I'm used to Artemesia jumping over into the kidding stall and then onto the tarp-covered pile of stored hay therein. But Abigail used to stay put in the main room where both goats belong.
Climbing goat
No longer. Our herd queen bent down the top of our wire manger then figured out how to leap from milking stanchion to a new perch atop the hay. Next, she proceeded to sleep there and poop there, meaning the loose hay was no longer on her goat-approved menu.

In her defense, though, I think Abigail was just trying to force my hand since I'd kept adding new hay on top of old hay that she wasn't entirely keen on. So I cleaned out the whole manger and put a much smaller layer of fresh hay back in. Hopefully that will be enough to make our herd queen obey the rules...although I have no hope that our little leaping charmer will keep her feet planted firmly on the ground.

Posted Thu Feb 4 07:24:12 2016 Tags:
Seedling cubes


We tried out our new soil block tool today.

Pure stump dirt cubes didn't hold together very well. But half-and-half stump dirt/potting soil cubes did much better.

We'll keep you posted about how well the herb seedlings fare once they germinate and start to grow.
Posted Wed Feb 3 15:20:13 2016 Tags:
Anna Gray paint
Paint brush

We're taking full advantage of this dose of midwinter sun and warmth. Monday, we managed to get the creek pump going despite icy ground, filling the wash-water tank before it drained completely dry. Tuesday, I caught up on a bit of laundry while the sun was shining, Painting a cabinetthen pulled out the paint can and brush to coat some of our kitchen remodeling projects.

Mark chose this dark blue/gray based on the reality of our housekeeping skills. We'd originally considered just staining the boards since we both love the warm tones of plain wood. But our cats have free rein of the kitchen and like to leave dirty footprints everywhere. We wipe up after them now and then, but figured it might be smarter to just start with a darker color to begin with so those paw stains aren't so obvious.

Posted Wed Feb 3 07:26:47 2016 Tags:

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