For the last month or so,
I've been taking the goats out for a half-hour honeysuckle walk after
my own lunch. As a result, our woods are becoming considerably less
Not long ago, Mom emailed
me to share her concern that I might denude our forest of honeysuckle.
She's right --- I probably will. Whether that will actually be a bad
thing, though, remains to be seen.
Japanese honeysuckle is
an invasive species here in the U.S., and it can actually strangle trees
when the vine's growth is particularly luxuriant. The photo at the top
of this post shows an ironwood that was sturdy enough to handle several
thick honeysuckle vines, but for every tree like this, there are two or
three that I end up just cutting down rather than pulling the vines out
of their canopies --- the tree is simply too mangled to survive.
Of course, that's just
looking at the forest --- what about the goats? Our girls do seem to be
thriving on a diet rich in honeysuckle (although, when given the choice,
Abigail still makes a beeline for the garden to munch on half-dead oat
stalks). In fact, when I look back at photos from two months ago, our
girls look like entirely different goats, and I don't think all of their
new bulk is due to their thick winter coats.
So what will we do once
we run out of honeysuckle? I have various thoughts in mind for next
winter, and they mostly revolve around cover crops.
This fall, our girls liked oilseed radishes okay and loved oats, and
they currently like rye pretty well. Since those cover crops have prime
green periods that span October, November, and December, that would be a
good start for providing our girls with some early to mid-winter
fodder, as long as I plant quite a bit more of the last two. I suspect
it would be thinking too big to say that I'll replace most or all of
this winter's store-bought hay with homegrown cover crops for next year,
but we should definitely be able to provide our goats with that
essential half-hour nibble of green!
And, in the meantime, I'll keep pulling honeysuckle out of the trees. I suspect that both trees and goats will appreciate the gesture.
Collecting charcoal from
wood stove ashes is easy with a DIY
We've been using this simple
design for 4 years with no problems.
It's that time of year when homesteaders like me start to dream of new and crazy garden ideas. With the success of last year's shade trellis plantings
under my belt, I'm considering two new planting beds encompassing the
rest of the south-west side of the trailer and the entirety of the west
side (where we have a big bay window at the edge of the kitchen). As
usual, there are some restrictions and goals to keep in mind as I assess
- I can't put any woody perennials right up against this side of the
wood-stove alcove because that's where we set the ladder during Mark's
annual chimney cleaning expedition. Perennials that die back to the ground or annuals are fine, though.
- My main goal is to provide summer shade, which can be supported by
an overhead trellis for the south-facing spot, but should be a vertical
wall for the west-facing spot since light and heat from the setting sun
streams in those windows during the summer.
- Edibles are always top priority, but a few flowers would be nice.
The photo above shows my current thoughts for filling in these two zones. Rather than building an overhead trellis along the south-facing wall (since I think Mark would hit his head on it while climbing the ladder), I'm thinking of a temporary trellis like we use for peas,
perhaps populated with the scarlet runner beans that did so well for us
this past summer. As an added color boost, maybe I'll scatter in some
sunflowers or Jerusalem artichokes?
I'm still indecisive
about the west-facing bed. On the one hand, I'd originally thought of
putting grapes there like we have growing up to our first shade trellis,
but we'd have to trellis these grapes vertically rather than
horizontally in order to block the setting summer sun...and that much
trellis might also block our winter views. Perhaps some closely-planted
pear trees could provide that vertical growth just as quickly...but
would the trees be leafy enough to block significant amounts of sun?
Maybe bamboo would do better for speed of growth and sun blockage,
although the species might keep its leaves during the cold season and
reduce winter visibility even more than grapes would. What do you think?
for this past summer's experimental area, the bed now has a grape vine
at each end, but I'll probably plant scarlet runner beans there for one
more year as well while waiting for the grapes to fully colonize their
overhead trellis. I'm starting to change this area over to a fully
perennial bed, though, with the addition of sage, columbine, foxgloves,
and some crocuses that I accidentally dug up while terraforming the forest garden.
My goal is to have the bed become a profusion of blooms and fruits in a
few years with little or no work on my part --- it's off to a good
Block stepping stones
are a little over three years old now and starting to show signs of
wear from the constant water pressure.
If we're smart we'll get
around to securing the steps that have a wobble before Mother Nature
resets that portion of the creek back to like it was before.
"Do you want me to come over this week?" Kayla asked on Monday.
"Of course," I replied. "How does Thursday sound?"
"But that's your birthday," Kayla rebutted. "Mark won't let you work on your birthday."
She was so right. In fact, after we came back home that day and Mark posted about our adventure, my father (who knows us both far too well), emailed to say: "Glad Mark got you out."
Gee, how did everyone guess that I'd originally planned to split some
wood and then spend a few hours writing as my birthday activities of
As a thank-you for his
fun-filled nudge, I told Mark that he's in charge of deciding what we do
on Christmas. Any guesses what he'll come up with next?
I sure am lucky to have a husband who reminds me how to play!
Our first shade
trellis turned out so
well we decided to start version 2.0.
One of our readers asked for an update on our greywater wetland
and I'm glad she did. There are two kinds of projects that I seldom
post followups about here on the blog --- ones that fail unspectacularly
and ones that work so well I never have to think about them again. Our
greywater wetland falls into the latter category.
Specifically, Kathleen asked:
"I wonder, do you ever get a foul smell from stagnant water? Do you
send big chunks down the "drain" and do you do anything to winterize
We did have a short
period the first summer when we smelled a bit of stagnant water wafting
back up the pipes...but before we got around to fixing the problem,
nature took over. I assume the right bacteria colonized the wetland and
broke down the odor-causing problem, because we didn't notice a
troubling smell again.
In terms of sending big
chunks down the drain, we don't do so on purpose (like you might with a
garbage disposal unit in a modern sink), but we also aren't careful when
letting dishwater drain out, so some pretty big chunks do
get through. Due to our big pipes, and perhaps to the roof water I
channeled in to flush out those pipes every time it rains, we haven't
had any problems resulting from food chunks causing blockages.
Finally, no, we don't
winterize our system in any way. Water is more likely to stand in the
wetland over the winter, but it still sinks in pretty quickly, and we
haven't noticed any problems. Overall, I'd say this is a system that you
should feel free to replicate exactly as we built it --- it's an
awesome addition to our farm, and the cattails are both pretty and (as
we learned this fall) can be fed to goats when fresh and green. What's
not to love?
We hiked the St Paul Falls
overlook trail this afternoon for Anna's Birthday.
It's time for me to make a
little extra space on my shelves...which means one lucky reader is
going to have a very special Christmas present show up in their mailbox
next week. The seven books and one DVD below have a value of $166, and
if you enter this week's giveaway, you can win all eight:
In exchange, I hope you'll help me plug this week's sale --- I've marked the two books in my Permaculture Gardener series (Homegrown Humus and The Naturally Bug-Free Garden)
down to 99 cents apiece this week. I'd like to move a lot of copies so
the books move up the rankings and are more visible to folks unwrapping
kindles this Christmas, so any word-spreading you do would be much
Here's the giveaway
widget --- thanks in advance for joining in the fun!
Alvin will not be making it home
for Christmas this year.
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