Most visited this week:
Smallest wood stoves
How many batteries do I need for my solar panels?
Wood stove in a mobile home
Refrigerator root cellar chimney cap
Propagating persimmons: Germinating seeds, grafting, and transplanting
A year ago this week:
Why you might (not) choose to test your soil
Eggs on the floor
Wood stove pollution and health effects
Hauling gravel with an ATV
Walden Effect Facebook page
One of my long-term goals
is to make our mulching campaign more sustainable. Buying in
straw has really helped build our soil and make my weeding work easier,
but it has caused
problems too. First, there's the unique-to-us problem --- we can
only haul in heavy materials a few days a year due to the muddiness of
our driveway, so getting the straw back to our garden during wet times
is difficult. Then there are the more general problems --- price
and the introduction of weed seeds (notably curly dock last year and the grains themselves this year). All of those problems make me wonder if we wouldn't be better off growing the straw ourselves.
It took about six beds of
oats to mulch one bed of strawberries, and even though we spread the
leaves and stems pretty heavily, I'm not sure if that will be enough to
suppress weeds once the oats dry down. I also suspect that the C:N ratio
of the oats will be relatively low at bloom stage (as opposed to
post-fruiting, which is when straw is collected), so this oat mulch
might not last as long as I'm accustomed to. But it's worth a
shot, especially since it's an ultra-easy way to start growing a bit
more of our own mulch. I'll keep you posted as the experimental
bed goes into the winter, and as we try out cutting other cover crops
The new Swisher
trimmer mower is very
easy to start.
I love collecting weather
data --- not only is it good, geeky fun, the endeavor also helps me
decide whether the garden needs to be watered and it helps me keep track
of our specific frost-free period. Unfortunately,
weather-tracking kept falling by the wayside when the tools of the trade
turned out to be shoddy and quickly bit the dust.
My second paperback has a cover, a publication date (March 3) and a preorder page! I'm not entirely sure whether I like the image, but then, I hated The Weekend Homesteader cover...until it slowly grew on me over the years so that I now find it delightful (yellow boots and all).
And Skyhorse has done a great job producing a full-color book priced at
a steal (marked down to $11.55 at the moment), so grab one while
The old freezer
we want to use for goat feed storage accumulates water.
I stressed myself out
last week by playing hooky from the garden for three days while a
writing project consumed my attention. When I came up for air, I
realized that it was time to plant twelve beds of garlic and two beds of
potato onions before the end of the week --- yikes!
I've avoided posting
anything specific about garlic here because I've pretty much said it all
before. Type "garlic" into the search box on the sidebar and
you'll learn far more than you ever wanted to know.
"Anna, I think you've been doing some experimenting with pears on your homestead, but I couldn't find any recent updates in the archives. Any luck with your disease-resistant rootstocks, etc.?"
--- Jake, whose excellent blog is currently one of my favorites. His writing will definitely be enjoyed by those who love a combination of useful facts, zany humor, and unadulterated geekiness.
So, a year and a half ago, I topworked
the young trees to change them over to new varieties --- Seckel,
Comice, and an unknown variety that is supposed to be similar to
Comice. The two named varieties are reputed to be moderately
susceptible to fireblight, and I have
seen a small amount of damage from that bacteria, although not enough
to really slow down the trees. (The photo above shows the huge
number of new branches the Seckel's central leader has produced during
this growing season alone.) Otherwise, the transformed trees seem
to be immune to problems. Like most pears, our trees grow a mile a
minute and I'm kept busy ripping off watersprouts to ensure that the
pears don't revert back to their original varieties, then training
keeper branches closer to the horizontal so they don't all grow straight
for the sky.
If all goes well, we
should see several fruits on each tree next year, at which point I'll be
able to tell you whether Seckel and Comice live up to their potential
for producing delicious pears that are much less prone to diseases than
apples are. So far, except for the fireblight, our pear trees have
been pristine. Of course, there are apple varieties that are nearly as disease resistant, and we manage to grow several despite having cedar-apple rust coming in from all sides --- a focus on types that are able to fight off that particular fungus is a big help.
But, from a management standpoint, I'd say that pears have definitely
been our easiest fruit tree, followed by apples, and then trailed
further behind by peaches. Of course, the peaches do shine in terms of producing soonest after planting, so it's all a tradeoff. But, yes, plant those pears!
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