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How many batteries do I need for my solar panels?

Smallest wood stoves

Fighting tomato blight with pennies

Rocket-stove bathtub

Wood stove in a mobile home

Sep 2013

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Slug control in the garden

How to make a berry apron

Moving chicks

ATV garbage hauler

Sep 2012

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close up of safety glasses in a plastic container

It took me a while to figure out how to make the Clarity anti-fog wipes stretch as far as possible.

Store the treated glasses in an airtight container to maximize the hydrophobic effect.

Posted Fri Sep 19 14:52:26 2014 Tags:
Vegetable curing racks

Every year, we seed six plantings of sweet corn, which provide near-continuous availability of the treat over most of the summer.  And every year, one of those plantings gets away from us.

Drying sweet cornMark and I are such connoisseurs of sweet corn that we only eat the grain at its peak.  I start the water boiling at the same time I head out to the garden to pick and shuck the ears, then I drop the corn in the water and turn each ear once, removing as soon as the color changes from pale to bright yellow, a process that takes mere seconds.  The result is corn so sweet, Lucy begs for the cobs, which she completely consumes.

But if I miss that peak-taste window and our corn starts to turn starchy...then Lucy, Mark, and I all turn up our noses.  Instead, I shuck the corn and put it on our drying racks for winter animal treats.  In the past, I've offered dried sweet corn to our chickens, but this year, I think the ears will go to the goats.

Posted Fri Sep 19 07:07:55 2014 Tags:
using battery powered Oregon chainsaw to cut down large Box Elder tree

The Oregon battery powered chainsaw made quick work of this large Box Elder.

Some of it is already rotten, but most of it will make good kindling material.

Posted Thu Sep 18 14:42:04 2014 Tags:
Starplate coop

Several of you asked (or warned) about fencing for our upcoming goats.  I started to write a long post in reply about my complicated plans on that front, but it seemed a little silly to theorize when I'll be able to report on our trial and error in less than a month.  However, there is a goat-related conundrum we're currently trying to solve --- water.

We plan to house our new goats in our starplate coop, but the structure is about 250 feet from the closest water source and up a relatively steep hill.  It was a bit wearying to carry a five-gallon bucket to the coop once a week over the summer, so I can only imagine how old the chore will get for goats (who presumably drink more than chickens) during the winter months.

Hand pumpWe've come up with several potential summer solutions, but winter ones will require more industry.  We can finish working up the gutters and rain-barrel system, but the spigot is bound to freeze during the winter whether or not the tank is big enough prevent the whole thing from freezing solid.  Similarly, we could pump water from the creek into our IBC tanks, but our creek-line isn't buried and only sometimes runs in the winter (and we'd still have to deal with a frozen spigot).

Gene Logsdon posted a few weeks ago about burying rain barrels to make mini-cisterns, and I think the idea has potential in our starplate pasture.  I love to dig, especially at this time of year when garden work is winding down, and the starplate earth is much lighter than the stuff in our core homestead.  Plus, Mark brought a hand-pump home from the hardware store many moons ago, thinking we might need it if the world came to an end, and we could use that to get water out of the buried rain barrel in order to hydrate our herd.

But I have a feeling that I'm missing something even more obvious.  Ideas?  How would you water goats located far enough away from the house that extension cords don't really reach?

Posted Thu Sep 18 07:17:52 2014 Tags:
moving old freezer with Lucy

Why are we moving this ancient freezer?

To have a rodent proof container to store goat feed near the Star Plate coop.

Yes...Anna helped push once she finished taking pictures.

Posted Wed Sep 17 15:49:24 2014 Tags:
Grasshopper on sunflower

Autumn weather arrived this past weekend and the long-range forecast suggests it may stick around.  Luckily, we're mostly in gravy mode in the garden --- we've packed away enough vegetables to last us for the winter, and are just enjoying eating the rest of the harvest (with occasional bouts of tomato drying or pepper freezing for variety later in the Sorghum flowersyear).  The figs are still dragging their feet and refusing to ripen, but the blueberries are winding down and the red raspberries are in full swing.

Mom asked what I planned to do if we get an early frost and I said that, really, we're ready.  Not that I want summer to end, but when freezing temperatures are forecast, we'll just let them happen.

One experiment hasn't quite reached it conclusion --- the sorghum plants I seeded at the beginning of July.  Just as our current cool spell came in, the plants shot up even higher and pushed out flower heads, which may or may not have time to turn into seeds before the frost.  I took the photo to the left with the zoom feature since these heads are way out of my reach, making our tall sunflowers look like midgets in comparison.

Honeybee in wingstem

Cooler weather also reminds me that it's time to pay attention to the bees.  I did a second varroa-mite count last weekend and was extremely pleased with the results --- 2.5 mites per day in the daughter hive and 3.5 mites per day in the mother hive.  Our Texas bees continue to be worth their weight in gold.

But are they worth their weight in honey?  Now that the humidity has dropped below 90%, I'm hoping for a sunny and moderately warm afternoon to harvest honey from the mother hive.  (The daughter will have the empty bottom box removed but will otherwise be left alone.)  Maybe Friday?

Posted Wed Sep 17 07:12:22 2014 Tags:
Swisher trimmer mower doing an extreme uphill mowing

How is the new Swisher trimmer mower on very steep hills?

Like a dream!

The above hill took a lot of effort with our blade mower, but today was easy once I got the hang of letting the machine drive it up the hill. Gravity takes over when you release the engagement lever for the downward portion.

Posted Tue Sep 16 15:57:17 2014 Tags:

Rooted fig cuttingI don't usually cross-promote books here if we publish them but they're written by someone else.  But our publishing wing has become the majority of our bread and butter lately, so I hope you don't mind the occasional plug...especially if it comes with a homesteading-related giveaway!

I'll start with the part you're probably most interested in --- the free stuff!  I rooted a cutting from my father's Brown Turkey fig this year, and the sapling is looking for a zone-7 or warmer home.  Daddy is picking a gallon of figs a day from this little tree's mother, and says that fig pie is his current favorite way to consume the fruit.  As long as you don't live in a cold climate, fig trees require nearly no care, and can be fit into an area about eight feet in diameter (although I hear they get much larger in California).  Why not enter to win your own no-work fruit tree?

What if you live up north?  Don't worry, I'll swap out your prize for something more appropriate.  You might prefer cuttings from my Chicago hardy fig --- these are easy to root and will produce fruit (with a little care) up through zone 6.  However, if even that is Burgling the Dragontoo tropical for your tastes, you can choose either a medley of our favorite seeds, or a signed copy of one of my (or Aimee's) books.  And, if a northerner wins the prize, I'll pick a second winner to give the fig tree to!

How do you enter the giveaway?  Just plug our books using the widget below.  Aimee has several new books out now or soon --- you've probably heard me mention Shiftless, which has already sold over 3,000 copies and will be an audio book within a few weeks; Burgling the Dragon is available at a special preorder price of 99 cents through September 30; and Aimee's short story Flight of the Billionaire's Sister will make you itch to read her newest novel, slated to release in November or December.  Oh, and did I mention that her short-story collection is free on Amazon today?  Once books are out of the preorder period, you can also borrow nearly all of her books (and mine too!) using Amazon Prime or Kindle Unlimited, so why not check some out?  Thanks in advance for reading and for spreading the word!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Posted Tue Sep 16 07:12:28 2014 Tags:
Swisher trimmer mower in action

We put together the new Swisher trimmer mower today.

It feels like more than twice the cutting power of our previous mower.

I'm still learning how to use it. When the self propelled mechanism is engaged I found myself struggling to keep up with its pace. It's better to just pump the engagement lever a few seconds at a time to let the machine do most of the work.

Posted Mon Sep 15 15:47:33 2014 Tags:
Passionflower fruit

MaypopOne of Mom's friends gave her this unripe passionflower fruit, which she then passed along to me.  Since the maypop is edible and the vine is often included in permaculture texts, I might see if the fruit had gotten far enough along on the vine to produce viable seeds.

I'm always up for growing an experimental species, even though I have a feeling that, if maypops tasted all that good, I would have eaten one before since they're native to our region and since I grew up amid foragers.
  In the meantime, I'd be curious to hear from those of you who have grown passionflowers in your garden.  I know the blossoms are beautiful, but is the fruit worth eating?

Posted Mon Sep 15 07:33:52 2014 Tags:

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