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Building a bee waterer

Fighting tomato blight with pennies

Square foot gardening rebuttal

How to help chicks during hatching

Moth pupa in the soil

Apr 2013

A year ago this week:

ATV trailer choice

Rye cover crop in the spring

Stihl FS-90R trimmer update

What are the tastiest strawberry varieties?

Apr 2012

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A box of new books

The thrill of picking up a box of Anna's newest paperback at the mailbox can only compare to when the first box of Weekend Homesteaders arrived.  A few of these books will be gifts, but most are earmarked for giveaways here on the blog.

Nearly as good was the smile on Anna's face when she saw that some of our readers had purchased paper volumes of Naturally Bug-Free.  If you're on the fence about getting your own copy of this beautiful and informative text, Amazon has marked down both the color and black-and-white versions another 5%.  Act now while they're on sale.

Posted Wed Apr 23 16:24:18 2014 Tags:

Winter squashCarol Deppe puts her advice on garden resiliency to work by growing different staples to feed herself at different times of the year.  Corn and dried beans fill her belly in the spring; she eats fruit all summer; potatoes, winter squash, and fruit feed her in the fall;  and potatoes and winter squash are on the menu in the winter.  To these garden staples, Deppe adds duck eggs (and a bit of meat) from her flock, along with some purchased pastured meat and canned tuna.

Deppe's staples are one one of the reasons I didn't get as much out of her book as I'd hoped to.  Although I like the lack of wheat in Deppe's diet (due to her struggles with celiac's disease), Mark and I strive for a higher protein diet, so Deppe's focus on potatoes and other high-carb staples didn't sit well with me.  I also don't really believe in the notion that you can stay healthy primarily based on supplements, so her use of cod liver oil to replace most meat in her diet doesn't seem like a nutritious long-term solution.

On the other hand, I was intrigued by how well Deppe seems to listen to her body.  She notes that she feels most full after eating foods high in water and fiber, and she used her own varying hunger levels to discover that she needed to eat animal-based omega 3s.  After noticing that plant-based sources of omega 3s didn't fulfill her cravings, she did some research and discovered that only some people are able to turn 18-carbon plant omega 3s into 20- and 22-carbon animal omega 3s.  Perhaps that's why some people crave meat much more than others do?

Posted Wed Apr 23 12:01:13 2014 Tags:
Cabbage seedling

There are a lot more gaps than usual to fill in the garden this spring.  The cold, wet winter killed two-thirds of our potato onions and softneck garlic (although our hardneck garlic, Music, is plugging right along unhindered).  A dry spell when I didn't think to water made for holey germination in the carrot and Swiss chard beds, and Huckleberry's hard work scratched up some peas and poppies.  Time to fill in the gaps!

For some crops, it's not too late to just replant.  I scattered another round of carrot seeds on the appropriate bed and popped Swiss chard seeds into hoed rows (after teasing apart the one seed cluster that had fully germinated, leading to three seedlings in one spot).  There were enough poppy seedlings clustered too close together that I could just transplant them to fill in the gaps, and then I slipped broccoli starts into the holes between garlic plants.

Spacing out poppies

PeasAfter that, I started getting whimsical.  How about a few carrots in the gaps in the pea beds?  Maybe some Red Russian kale in the spaces between potato onions?

The trick with filling in gaps is to add crops that will mature at about the same time as the vegetables that originally owned the bed.  You also don't want to plant something that's going to get too big, shading out the vegetables you really care about, and you definitely don't want to add anything that will need trellising.  So no cabbages, even though I have plenty more starts on hand, and nothing that will need more than two months to mature.  (The carrots are small hybrids, listed at 54 days to harvest.)

I seeded and transplanted Monday and Tuesday, knowing a rainy spell was due to blow in Tuesday afternoon.  Hopefully water from the sky will sprout my seeds and settle my transplants, filling the garden with life.

Posted Wed Apr 23 06:43:28 2014 Tags:
Bucket handle replacement

The handles seem to be the weakest link in our bucket brigade.  Anna made this replacement grip out of a feed sack and tape last year, and it has held up well.

Some buckets have lost their entire handle, though.  Maybe rope replacements will do the trick?

Posted Tue Apr 22 15:34:23 2014 Tags:

Carol DeppeAs the subtitle of her book attests, the primary theme of Carol Deppe's book is finding ways to grow food that will work even when times are tough.  If you can't afford store-bought groceries, break your leg and can't spend every minute in the garden, and have to deal with crazy weather, would you still be bringing in a harvest?  Carol Deppe would.

What's her secret?  Mark would sum it up in one word --- backups.  Deppe goes into more depth, recommending diverse plantings of multiple varieties and types of crops, no single main crop, succession planting, using short-season varieties to work around erratic weather, and including animals in your homestead.  Due to climate change, she recommends not counting on crops that are on the edge of their hardiness range in your area, and instead says you should focus on crops that are being grown commercially by your neighbors since these tend to be dependable.

Posted Tue Apr 22 12:00:23 2014 Tags:
Strawberry bloom

Frost-damaged strawberry flowerLess than a week after the hard freeze, I'm able to start assessing what got nipped.  The bad news is that the strawberries were harder hit than the numbers suggested --- lots of flowers are opening and most have black centers, meaning they aren't going to turn into fruits.  On the other hand, the first undamaged flowers are also starting to open, which means we only lost about the first four of five days worth of strawberry fruits.

Frost-damaged apple flower

Opening kiwi budThe apples are also starting to open flowers that were tightly closed last week.  Most are clearly damaged, with brown stamens, but a few look okay like the one above.  The big question will be whether the female parts of the flowers survived --- it doesn't take all that much pollen to fertilize every tree, but if the ovaries are damaged, there won't be any fruit.

I was also heartened to see that a few of the hardy kiwi buds were slowpokes and missed the freeze.  Maybe we'll still get a chance to taste homegrown kiwis this year?

Posted Tue Apr 22 07:26:04 2014 Tags:
Tomato seedlings

Two parts manure and one part stump dirt will keep these tomato seedlings bright green until they go into the ground. I wonder if hefty transplants will turn into extra early tomatoes?

Posted Mon Apr 21 16:29:47 2014 Tags:

The Resilient GardenerI've had Carol Deppe's The Resilient Gardener on my shelf for a couple of years, but only read it from cover to cover this spring.  Why the wait?  I'm ashamed to say that part of my foot-dragging was due to an assumption that the book was very dry since the only photos are in a central insert.  Despite lack of images in the text, though, the book is very engagingly written.

A more important issue is that Deppe and I have very different gardening and dietary habits, so much of her information isn't relevant to me.  In many ways, she follows the gardening advice of Steve Solomon, which is probably a great way to grow in the Pacific Northwest, but doesn't suit our farm or palates.  On the other hand, it might suit many of you better than it did me --- the information is definitely well-researched and is based on personal experience, which is what I always look for in a homesteading book.

With all of those caveats, what finally got me to crack the cover?  Now that we're going to try ducks (arriving this Friday!), I figured I should go straight to the source and learn from an expert.  Stay tuned for helpful hints on ducks and more in this week's lunchtime series.

Posted Mon Apr 21 12:01:15 2014 Tags:

Chicks on pastureWhen moving chickens to a new home, I generally lock them inside their night-time accommodations for one or two days so they home in on the spot.  After that, I open the door and let them roam.

Our chicks loved the starplate coop so much, they didn't even feel the need to go outside for the first eight hours of door-opened freedom.  Instead, they enjoyed the inside perches --- despite their small size, multiple little chickens hung out on the top-most roost.

Eventually, though, the whole flock came tumbling out the door and wandered a full ten feet away from the hen house.  The ground is still winter-brown in this shady spot close to the hillside, but our chicks enjoyed pecking at new leaves coming out on tiny tree saplings.

Soon, we'll have the chicks fenced into rotational paddocks, but for now they're small enough not to cause much damage if just allowed to free range.  As long as they're not in the garden, this is probably my favorite chick age --- all they need is to be shut in at night, given free-choice feed and a poop-free waterer, and they're golden.

Posted Mon Apr 21 07:26:10 2014 Tags:
close up of creek powered sprinkler

Running the creek sprinklers all day felt like a good way to celebrate Easter.

Posted Sun Apr 20 15:26:13 2014 Tags:

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