archives for 05/2015
There's no doubt that our goats enjoy comfrey.
I have patches here and there throughout the farm, and Abigail
especially is always looking to grab a mouthful as she passes by. But of
my three types --- Common Comfrey, Bocking 4, and Bocking 14 --- which should I most focus on propagating for goats?
On a rainy afternoon when
tethering didn't seem to be an option, I decided to run a comfrey taste
test. First, I brought the goats a bucketful of Common Comfrey, which
they seemed to adore. However, when I came back a couple of hours later,
most of the comfrey was still in the bucket. Maybe another variety
would be better received?
May Day is my traditional
planting of the first big round of summer crops. Our frost-free date
isn't until May 15, but it takes seeds a few days to come up and late
frosts are usually quite mild. As a result, a bit of row cover fabric is
generally sufficient protection for the
tender-but-not-excessively-tender crops like green beans, sweet corn,
and summer squash. (We save true tenderfoots like sweet potatoes,
peppers, tomatoes, and okra for after the frost-free date, when I plant a
second round of the early birds too.)
Meanwhile, I'm now regretting having jumped the gun by starting my tomatoes inside during the last week of February.
The plants thrived for quite a while, but they really needed more space
and more sun by early April. I suspect that's why a damping-off fungus
leapt from a tray of zinnia seedlings into the tomatoes and began to
wreak havoc once warm weather hit. I've never seen such mature plants
succumb to damping off, but something caused about half of my tomatoes to decline and several to outright kick the bucket.
The square hole for the Warre Langstroth adapter is 12 inches on each side.
It took less than two weeks after flipping my experimental shiitake logs
over before the second side of the new round was well colonized. At
this point, the two logs and the cardboard sandwiched in between were
all fused together with mycelium, and I had to tug gently to break them
I'm assuming that means
the new round can now take care of itself, with the mycelium moving in
from each direction to colonize all of the wood in the middle. So it's
time to see if I can force fruit my mini-log using common kitchen items.
First, an overnight soak in a tupperware container full of water, then a
few days in the fridge to simulate winter. If all goes as planned, we
could see mushrooms beginning to bud on the log surface as early as next
week, about ten weeks after inoculation.
We made contact with a super
nice guy at the monorail factory in Japan who has agreed to put a
Briggs and Stratton engine on one so they can ship it to us here.
"Do you think you'll run
out of weeds for the goats to eat?" Joey asked when he was over this
weekend. The answer will depend on whether or not tethering our little
herd in the woods works out.
My tethering method
currently involves putting Artemesia on a long line, leaving Lamb Chop
untethered (if we're safely away from the garden), and then putting
Abigail on the shortest leash with the deepest anchor. It sounds
counterintuitive, but Abigail is such a browser that if she has a long
leash, she spends most of her time wandering around picking out which
morsel looks the tastiest. On the other hand, if you put her on a short
line, then she hunkers down and eats for nearly two hours...at which
point I go out and move her to the other side of Artemesia's spot. If
the weather permits, Abigail seems to fill her belly within about four
or five hours, even in the slimmer pickings of the woods, which works
well with my daily routine.
Lamb Chop is generally done eating within the first half an hour...especially if he's broken out of his stall and stolen the morning milk again.
(Bad Lamb Chop! And here Abigail had upgraded to three cups a day too!)
Luckily, Artemesia doesn't need much more grazing time than that and is
quite willing to butt heads or nap with her charge while Abigail
continues stuffing her rumen.
I keep hoping to see
signs of heat from our doeling since both Nubians
and Nigerians (her two lineages) can sometimes go into heat out of
season, but Artemesia always likes spending time with the buckling, is
always a loud mouth, and
always wags her tail a lot. She even lets Lamb Chop mount her, but it
seems to be in more of a "whatever, he's a kid, let him play" sort of
way. I'm hopeful that when they're both really serious about mating I'll
be able to tell the difference, but I'm not so sure. From an
animal-management perspective, it sure would be nice if Artemesia got
pregnant now for a fall kidding and Lamb Chop went in the freezer, but
there's not really much I can do about goat sex....
We got the sprinkler system
going today for the first time this year.
After so many years of
raising chicks annually, we've got chick care down to a science....until
I forget to follow the rules. Problem one this year was when I started
out with the automatic feeder you can see at the top of this post instead of the tray feeder
I usually use with very young chicks. I had forgotten that minuscule
feet can hop right in the larger automatic feeder and scratch grain all
over the ground. After wasting about half a gallon of feed, I remembered
and went back to the old way. I'll upgrade to the automatic feeder once
the chicks are eating the entire contents of the tray feeder in a day
and need a bigger reservoir.
The bigger mistake I made
was completely forgetting to shut the brooder door on Friday night.
Keep in mind that the brooder is located only a few feet from our back
door, in an area fenced off from the wilds and patrolled by Lucy at
regular intervals. Despite this supposed safety, I woke up to one dead
chick, a spooked flock, and perhaps four other birds missing. (It's hard
to count when they're all cowering in the weeds.) It always hurts when
you lose plants or animals due to human error, but hopefully the sad
reminder (plus Mark's backup memory) will suffice to keep the brooder
door closed every night in the future.
We uncovered our fig
trees today and were
relieved to see signs of life.
My weather guru
doesn't want to commit to no more frosts this early in May. But the
10-day forecast shows lows only descending in the mid-50s to low-60s
between now and our frost-free date, so I decided to go ahead and set
out our tomatoes. Worst-cast scenario, we can always cover the plants with buckets
during the inevitable Blackberry Winter. Best-case scenario, there
won't be any more freezes and our little plants can finally start
perking up with their feet in the earth. I know it's just my
imagination, but the plants look happier already.
Meanwhile, I went ahead and set out eight sweet potato slips
as well. I've got lots more slips coming off my tubers inside or
rooting in a cup of water, and those will go in the ground throughout
the month of May. But since these guys were rooted and ready (and since
the highs are suddenly very summery), I decided to set them out early.
It's that time of year
again --- fruit-dreaming season! This year, the crop I'm watching most
closely is my seckel pear, which does appear to have set around half a
Of course, lots can
happen between now and fruit-ripening season, but
spring freeze damage and the plants' ability to hold onto the developing
ovaries are usually the deciding factors in whether or not we'll get to
enjoy a given fruit each year. For example, our apples are right at the
stage where failed flowers fall off at the lightest brush of a finger.
The photos above show the same twig before and after my test touch ---
there might be one apple staying in that cluster...if I'm lucky.
Up in the blueberry patch, there's yet more bad winter-kill news. None of the rabbiteye blueberries
outright perished in last winter's cold, but all were damaged. On the
other hand, our two northern highbush blueberries are a year or two
slower to fruit, but they shrugged off the extreme cold and are now
coated with flowers. I guess I'll be digging up the rabbiteyes and
giving them to my mom (who lives in town, at least one zone warmer),
then focusing on northern highbush blueberries in the future.
Next door, gooseberries
and currants continue to prove themselves as ultra-dependable berries.
Last summer, something defoliated our gooseberries long before their
time...but despite the damage, the bushes are loaded with fruits once
again. Winter cold, spring snaps, and apparently whatever ate their
leaves aren't nearly enough to faze this thorny but productive bush.
ultra-dependable, our strawberry fruits are plumping up as always.
Whenever I wonder why everyone doesn't focus on strawberries as one of
their primary fruits, I remind myself of the hard work that goes into
weeding out runners to ensure my plants stay big and the fruits taste
delicious. But if you're willing to weed, it's hard to go wrong with
this fast, productive fruit.
We installed our new Warre
Langstroth adapter box
underneath the active Warre hive today.
The floodplain isn't
precisely dry, but after quite a bit of hot weather, the groundwater has
sunk about six or eight inches below the surface. Which means that Mark
is now able to get the ATV to the edge of our new footbridge,
about 370 feet from the trailer. And roughly two-thirds of the distance
from motorized transport to garden is easily traversable by
wheelbarrow. Yep, the combination of factors finally makes it worthwhile
to haul in ten bales of straw!
This isn't the time of year to buy straw.
Since no one has cut their overwintering grains yet, any straw
available hails from last year and is expensive --- $8 a bale, and only
available a 45-minute drive away. But I couldn't stock up on our usual
supply of straw last year because the offerings turned out to be full of
grain seeds, so the extra time and money is worth it now to keep the
spring garden in good shape. It's even worthwhile to haul the straw one
bale at a time up the hill pictured above.
Back in the garden, I
made short work of my delicious new organic matter. I've been hoarding
newspapers since 2012 (according to the dates on the pages), and I put
most of my stash to good use acting as a weed barrier beneath the straw.
That meant I didn't have to hand-weed each bed before mulching, and I
could also use the straw more lightly than I would have needed to
otherwise. Between Mark's hard work with the weedeater and the
newspaper-straw combination, our garden is finally starting to look
presentable! (Mom and Kayla, any chance you'll start saving me newspaper
Grafting plums using dormant scionwood and rootstock
is not usually recommended, so I was much heartened when two of my five
grafts took immediately and sent vigorous shoots up from the scionwood.
Of the other three rootstock/scionwood combinations, I was willing to
give one plant a little more time to make up its mind since the
scionwood looked good and
there were no sprouts yet from the rootstock either. But I assumed that
the grafts on the last two plants had failed. After all, the plants in
question were growing from the rootstock and the scionwood didn't look
But imagine my surprise
when I removed the parafilm from one of the "failed" grafts and saw the
above. That green stuff growing between rootstock and scionwood...could
that be cambium beginning to join the two pieces of wood together? I'm
not positive, but decided it wouldn't hurt to give the tree a little
more time to get its act together. So I rewrapped the graft, plucked off
the rootstock sprout (to give the plant notice that it needed to sprout
from the scionwood) and set it back in the low light of our living
The second failed graft,
though, was truly failed. The scionwood came right out and there appears
to be no life (green) left in the wood. Time to try again with
budding...in tomorrow's post!
When grafting during the growing season, most people turn to some permutation of budding
(aka bud grafting). The idea is that you cut a bud off the variety you
prefer, slip the bud into an incision in the bark of the rootstock, let
the wound heal, then bend down the rootstock's top growth to prompt a
new stem to grow out of the transplanted bud. Yes, this technique does
require more TLC than the simple whip-and-tongue grafts used during the
dormant season, but budding is much more successful than dormant
grafting on stone fruits like peaches and plums.
The first step was to
make a T-shaped incision in the side of the rootstock. You want to cut
down through the cambium (green layer) so the bud can slide all the way
underneath, right up against the wood. I've been told it's easier to do
this step in August, but I was able to pry the cambium up in early May.
Next, I sliced a bud (and
the surrounding wood) off a growing stem on the plum tree I want to
propagate. (See photo at top of this post.) I snipped off the leaf, then
slid the bud down into the incision on the rootstock.
I made two Big City trips
this past week to pick up straw.
I read a lot of blogs
written by aspiring and actual homesteaders, and one theme that often
comes up is --- "This simple life isn't all that simple, is it?"
Of course, the bloggers
are right. The intricacies of growing your own food and trying to be
more self-sufficient can be daunting and exhausting. But I find that the
complicated lifestyle simplifies me.
I was thinking about this
over the weekend while enjoying our usual weekly Mark-mandated respite.
"I'm a pretty boring person," I thought as I loosed the goats in the
floodplain, then settled down with a book to watch them graze. Lamb Chop
curled up in the crook of my legs and I reached down to scratch that
itchy spot at the base of his horns. In that moment, all of us (boring
or not) were 100% happy.
After a couple of hours,
even Abigail was starting to waddle as she walked, and I figured it was
time to come home. Standing, I saw for the first time a huge patch of
yellow flags --- a wild water iris that I rarely see --- about thirty
feet away from my resting spot. Even though I'd walked directly toward
the flowers while heading out for our weekend browse, I hadn't noticed
the blooms until I rose at last, my head completely emptied by an
afternoon with a novel and three goats.
And that, to me, is the
purpose of the simple life. When my usually far-to-busy brain slows down
and completely empties, when I can't think of anything I want that's
not within reach of my fingertips, when the sight of a flower makes me
happy...that's the simple life.
As I've mentioned, I like parts of both the Warre and Langstroth hive systems. So even though we're currently converting our colony from the former to the latter,
I'm not ready to throw in the towel on Warre methods. Here are some
Warre components I'm considering incorporating into our new system:
By the way, I should
mention that the primary reason we're converting our Warre hive back to
Langstroth is because both places we ordered bees from this year fell
through. One company changed their shipping method to the US Postal
Service (which I'm okay with) but refused to insure the bees traveling
that way (which I'm not okay with). The other company pushed back their
shipping date twice and then threw in the towel and said they wouldn't
be sending out bees at all this year. Two refunds behind me, I figured
I'd better focus on the hive I have on hand. Maybe next year we'll be
able to expand our apiary and will be able to put what I'm learning this
year to use!
We carried the rest of our
straw up a hill that's equivalent to a few flights of stairs.
I made our first trial
cheese! I suspect this is most people's first cheese because it can be
made with normal kitchen supplies --- a quart of goat's milk, 1/4 cup of
lemon juice, a jelly thermometer, a clean cloth, and a collander. Just
slowly heat the milk to 180 degrees, add the vinegar, watch curds form,
then strain through the cloth. Nearly instant cheese!
The amount of whey to
discard is rather daunting, though. A search of the internet turned up
the fact that there are two types of whey --- acid whey (which this is)
and sweet whey (from cultured cheeses). Sweet whey has scads of uses,
but acid whey is less malleable. So I'll probably end up giving the whey
to our animals (whichever one likes it best).
Lamb Chop can now jump over
his kidding stall with almost no running start.
There's almost too much going on the garden right now to post about. Time for a disjointed catch-up post!
In the perennial sphere, I
found time last Friday to summer-train our youngest apple trees,
although our older trees are still waiting for their turn. The photo
above shows our espalier
experiment (before I picked up the porch). I lopped off the top of the
tree this past winter and am now training two new limbs along angled
pieces of string. The third incipient limb was pinched off to maintain
Of course, weeding is
always on the agenda, although the task goes on the back burner during
planting week. I do a lot of hand weeding, but most of our soil is now
so good that the job is easy and fun...even when the beds are ignored
too long like around the asparagus plants shown above.
Speaking of weeds, I made
a mistake last winter by planting rye in my flower bed/grapevine area
in front of the trailer. While rye is a good cover crop, it's a weed in
my flower bed because the plant is in the wrong place!
I went out with Mark to decide whether each rye bed was ready to be cut
or not, and in the process I was struck by the difference in biomass
production of various beds. My bed-by-bed approach to the garden means
that some beds are extremely rich from lots of manure and cover crops,
while other beds have managed to miss the boat on organic matter
accumulation. The latter beds produced rye plants less than half as tall
as the former beds with flower heads that are more like a quarter of
the size. Those puny beds will get to keep their rye mulch, while I'll
harvest the tops from the taller beds to use as mulch in other parts of
Kayla reminded me that it was also time to take the first set of measurements from our broadfork experiment. The first bed I looked at was the mangels in the photo below. The top half of the bed was broadforked while the bottom half wasn't.
Another pressing question I'd been meaning to follow up on was --- does a low of 27 nip our fruit-tree flowers? Unfortunately, the answer appears to be yes. The developing apple fruit pictured above is the only one I could find on all of our trees, and the pear fruits I'd been keeping my eye on have since dropped off.
The big excitement for our
goats this week was some pasture expansion.
one of your fruit trees dies a wintry death, but the yank test says
there's still life left in the roots, you can choose to either wait a
year and then graft onto that rootstock, or to turn the area into a
rootstock-propagation zone. I opted for the latter with the
winter-killed apple tree shown above.
The idea is to cover
about half of each sprout's length with earth, and it's worth taking
some time to work the soil in with your fingers to thoroughly fill all
the air gaps between sprouts. Once the sprouts grow a little higher,
I'll hill a little more so I continue to have half of each stem's length
(hopefully six to eight inches by the end of the season) buried in the
Varieties are chosen to
be rootstocks in part because they're keen rooters, so in my official
stooling areas, I chopped the tops off the one-year-old trees in early
spring and stuck those tops halfway into the ground several inches away
from the original stool. In the photo above, the stem is on the left and
the rootstock is on the right (by the rebar). As you can see, both
parts of the tree are currently leafed out and growing. Since this stool
is younger than the one shown in the previous photos (one year old
versus 2.5 years old), it's not as advanced and won't be hilled for a
few more weeks.
Our new chicks have gotten big enough to need another layer of bricks under their EZ Miser bucket waterer.
This spring, I set out to answer the question --- is there a fast no-till way to eradicate overwintering weeds in a month or less? A tall order, I know, but my slow-and-sure kill mulches don't work for a lot of gardeners because they aren't able to think ahead to prepare the soil a few months before planting. The photo above shows four experimental beds (and a control bed that's simply been weed-whacked repeatedly) attempting to answer that question.
Option A involved a type of very thin, biodegradable black plastic.
The photo above shows Kayla helping me lay down the plastic three weeks
ago. The photo below shows completely dead oats underneath the plastic
this past Thursday.
Option 2 was solarization, which I explained in more depth in this post.
The solarization worked about equally as fast as the black plastic,
with the bonus that this clear plastic didn't shred after light pet
traffic. The clear plastic also held in the soil moisture, which was
handy since rainfall for the last few weeks has been nearly nonexistant.
Option 3 was a storebought roll of paper mulch.
This mulch was the least effective as a fast weedkill, although it
looks to be the most effective as a long-term ground cover.
Option 4 was mad of
entirely free materials, but I didn't lay them down until later than the
previous options and thus don't have a comparison yet to the other
methods. Kayla's father came through with a big box of newspaper
(thanks, Jimmy!), and I've been applying the sheets using different
methods in different parts of the garden.
The final method I'm trying is a more long-lived type of black plastic
that is supposed to be good for 12 years (assuming you don't puncture
the fabric in the interim). I laid down an experimental span in the
proto-tree-alley a week ago, with the plan of taking up the plastic at
the end of the month and planting sweet potatoes there. I'll keep you
posted about weed control there as well.
Our asparagus is slowing down, but the strawberries are just getting started.
I suspect one of the
reason women love goats is because the caprine herd has the exact
opposite problem we have. As a goatkeeper, one of your primary goals is
to keep the weight on
your goats. Between intestinal parasites (usually present at low levels
but sometimes veering way out of control) and the energetic expense of
creating baby goats and milk out of grass, dairy goats have a bad
tendency to waste away to skin and bones. Enter my weekly bout with the measuring tape to reassure myself that our goats are in fine form.
When I get this one done we'll have 3 paddocks we can cycle the goats through.
After deciding that our first cheese --- an acid cheese --- was too simple, it was time to move on to a cultured cheese. I followed this recipe for neufchatel, which uses buttermilk as the starter culture and rennet to make the curds separate from the whey.
I'm not going to run
through all of the instructions for making this cheese since you can
find them at the link in the previous section. The shorthand version is:
take 2 quarts of room-temperature milk, add two tablespoons of cultured
buttermilk, dissolve two drops of liquid rennet in a quarter of a cup
of water and add to the milk mixture, stir, then cover and let sit for
about eight hours. You'll know your cheese is ready for the next step
when you see a clean break as is shown above.
Now you're ready to cut the curds...
...and drain off the whey
by pouring the contents of your pot into a clean towel in a colander.
You're then supposed to hang this bag of proto-cheese for a while until
the rest of the whey works its way out, but I was impatient and simply
squeezed the bag, stirred the contents, and then squeezed some more
until the cheese was dry. (Someone please tell me why this method is
wrong --- it seemed to efficient!)
The final result gets half a teaspoon of salt mixed in and is then ready to eat!
Mark and I tasted the neufchatel (top container), the same cheese mixed with some Hollywood sun-dried tomatoes,
and ricotta made from the whey. (More on the ricotta in a later post.)
Mark doesn't like goat cheese from the store, but he enjoyed this
completely non-goaty cheese...while I actually missed the goatish
overtones. Meanwhile, I've never been a fan of ricotta, but I thoroughly
enjoyed the homemade version, while finding the Neufchatel a bit bland.
admit that when my parents made lasagna with ricotta when I was a kid, I
tried to pick around the grainy cheese. But I now that I'm
experimenting with cheesemaking, I've learned the purpose of ricotta ---
turning all that cultured whey into something useful. And, sure enough,
two quarts of milk turned into 9.5 ounces of neufchatel,
while leaving enough proteins in the whey to create another 2.9 ounces
of ricotta. Thus, I've decided this subtly acidic cheese is hereafter to
be referred to as "bonus cheese."
Ricotta is almost too
simple to post about. You take your leftover whey and allow the liquid
to sit, covered, at room temperature for 12 to 24 hours. Next, boil to
separate the curds from the whey, then strain out the chemically altered
(greenish) whey off your new cheese.
Anyway, after you boil
your whey, you let it cool for a couple of hours, then pour the curds
and whey into a clean cloth above a strainer. I used our new straining funnel for this step.
The Star Plate goat barn now has a third door to access the new paddock.
Despite some bird
pressure that's been forcing me to pick berries a little on the pale
side, we've been enjoying delicious strawberry desserts for the last
week and a half or so. That said, I've decided it's finally time to pull
the plug on our Honeoyes. Not the variety
--- this early season strawberry is still a favorite. But after
expanding my patch from gifted expansions of someone else's patch for
the last eight years, viruses (I assume) are building up in the clones
and the berries are slowly becoming less flavorful. When even I want a little honey on my fruit (unlike Mark, who always does), I know that it's time to make a fresh start.
And, while I'm at it,
maybe I should try a second variety as well? Now that Kayla's in my
life, I can get away with ordering 25 plants of both Honeoye and Galleta
(an ultra-early variety) without worrying that the new plants will take
over my entire garden. Last year's addition of Sparkle
was a great boon to our homestead, so hopefully Galleta will be as
well. And even though the plants cost 70 cents apiece once you add in
shipping, when you figure that they and their children will likely feed
us for another eight years at a rate of at least a gallon a day, the
plants are definitely a bargain! That's my kind of homestead math.
battery powered chainsaw
needed a new chain today.
The weather and I can be
moody. After a crazy wet fall, winter, and spring, we started measuring
precipitation in hundredths of an inch this month. A quarter of an inch
of rain Thursday morning eased the earth's woes a little, but it took
Mark's cheerful demeanor and calm problem solving to ease my own bad
You'd think I'd realize that I always
get overwhelmed around the middle to the end of May. I keep a mood
diary (who, me obsessive?) and this is the time of year when my homemade
cheerfulness report card dips into Cs and Ds. All of the spring
plantings need to be weeded, our chicks are growing out of the easy
stage and require more frequent pasture changes, and learning goats has
also added to my load this year.
Some chores are easy to
spread around. I pull Mark off his normal tasks to help me for a morning
in the garden, and together we move the chicks to a new bit of yard.
After a lesson in goat tethering, we figure he can halve my chores there
Speaking of offloading, I've decided to let my Winter and Spring cookbooks stand alone for the moment. I had thought my book about living in a trailer
would be my most controversial and criticism-inspiring text, but
apparently our unusual food choices are much more divisive. Lacking the
energy to push a product that the world isn't ready for, I'm moving on
to one of the other creative projects that I always have waiting in the
Some of our onions
started sprouting and going bad on us.
"I don't want to go out," Abigail said on Wednesday morning when I went to tether our little herd in the woods.
I met Abigail in the middle. I tethered her out early, took her in a
bit after lunch, then cut some locust boughs in the evening to top off
her belly. No, Mark, I don't know what you're talking about when you say
I spoil our goats....
Kayla's husband Andy helped
us out with some firewood cutting yesterday.
I saw a perpetual motion
Youtube video recently
that tickled my curiosity.
After some research and great input from our readers, I decided to make a few changes before repeating my neufchatel/chevre
endeavor. First, even though the instructions called for two drops of
liquid rennet in my half-gallon recipe, raw goat milk is notorious for
not needing nearly as much thickening agent --- pure milk is just very
alive. So this time around I backed off to one drop of rennet, looking
for more of a soft cheese consistency instead of the more chewy cheese I
ended up with last time.
I set out ten persimmon seedlings in our chicken pastures 2.5 years ago,
figuring there were all kinds of experimental possibilities for the
young trees. Option 1 would be to simply let them grow up to adult size,
but a seedling persimmon has a 50/50 chance of being male (meaning no
fruit), grows very large, and takes a long time to bear. Option 2 (my
favorite at that time) was to graft hardy Asian persimmons onto the
seedling rootstocks...but my hardy persimmon varieties kept dying back
to the ground over the winter, so I decided to ditch that plan. Instead,
I moved on to option 3 --- to trade for named American persimmon
varieties (Yates, Proc, I-94, and Early Golden) and graft those onto my
Persimmons are trickier
than some other fruits to graft, so I tried two different approaches. I
also followed the experts' advice by waiting until it seems far too late
to graft --- late May when the leaves on the seedling trees were nearly
I grafted the first four plants before doing any research, so they got my usual whip-and-tongue graft.
It was definitely tougher to graft in situ than to bench graft, and
both the rootstock and scionwood were on the small side (compared to
apples) for most of the trees, so I'm not sure how many will take.
While I took a water break in front of the computer, I found this interesting file
suggesting an alternative method of grafting persimmons, so I followed
the author's lead for my last three trees. First, I snipped the entire
top off each seedling, then I slit a strip of bark and peeled it down
(carefully!) before cutting away a bit of the rootstock to make room for
another stick of wood to fit in.
It's that time of year again --- the season for weekly doting upon our tomato plants! The first round of pruning
is simple --- I snip off the bottom leaves so none are touching the
ground, then I pinch off any suckers, no matter how small. If suckers
have grown too large to pinch, I instead cut them with clippers. Then I look at the many beautiful bloom buds (and the open flowers on the plants I set out a week earlier) and smile for the rest of the day.
We decided our tomatoes
needed a drip irrigation system.
An unusually dry May has
its pros and cons. On the plus side, if the summer stays like this, our
garden may bypass its usual wide range of fungal diseases. And, already,
the weeding pressure is much lower than in normal seasons...
...because the weed seeds simply aren't sprouting. Unfortunately, unless I give them some TLC, neither are the vegetable seeds.
We got a big straw bale
Lamb Chop's date with the butcher was supposed to be coming up next week. But, soon after Artemesia's heat subsided... (R-rated information after the next photo)
...our buckling finally matured enough to do the deed.
I hate to say it, but I
can hardly wait to see the back of our little buckling. He's actually
still quite sweet, but I've had to give up on tethering since he's
impossible to walk through the garden with two other goats in my hand.
Instead, our herd is subsisting on pasture goodies (less than a third of
their food at the moment), tree leaves from cut saplings,
and a daily guided walk into the floodplain. I dream of the time when I
only have two manageable goats and can fold our caprine herd deeper
into our homestead once again.
It rained! Two-thirds of
an inch is usually something we roll our eyes at. But when it amounts to
59% of the precipitation for the month, we celebrate...by inviting Mom
to come over and pick strawberries.
Joey showed up too to
install a DIY-computer-turned-server, which he plans to use for (insert
technical explanation I didn't really understand here). I think he'll
eventually post about it on his blog.
Dan's Workshop Blog is a good place to learn about making your own concrete mixer, charcoal powered transportation, and thermoelectric camp stove chargers.
One of my favorite ways to use up milk is by turning it
into chocolate pudding. This fast and easy dessert tastes decadent
when boiled up from homegrown goat milk, and it would taste pretty good using whole milk from the store too.
3.5 cups of whole milk
3/4 cup of honey
1/2 cup of cocoa
6 tablespoons of corn starch
1/4 teaspoon of salt
1 teaspoon of vanilla
Berries for a garnish (optional)
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