archives for 03/2017
I suspect a lot of my fiction
will be totally unappealing to my non-fiction audience. But Verdant
Magic might possibly bridge that divide.
It's been a year since we
upgraded to these seedling
heat mats from Hydrofarm.
What do we have planted
new seedling nook? The baby onions are up and running and I just
seeded a flat of broccoli. I filled half of another flat with peppers
then added some other slow germinators --- parsley and swiss chard ---
to round that one out. Two more weeks until I start tomatoes and basil!
Yesterday's heavy storm brought in enough extra water to flood us in.
Mom's local paper reports
that the leaves in Bristol, Tennessee, are a full month ahead of
schedule. The only leaves we have here are tiny fresh growth on
multiflora rose, autumn olive, and Japanese honeysuckle. But I can
gauge spring's advance based on the pear buds (breaking open for about
a week now) and the gooseberry leaves (which have been pushing gently
out of buds for a little longer than that).
So we're not a full
month ahead of schedule (unless you measure us by 2015), but our plants
are precocious by at least two
weeks. I guess the question becomes --- do we push our planting
calendar up an equal amount or figure there will be sudden cold spells
up to our usual frost-free date and hold the usual line?
I'm afraid I can't yet
say that I've figured out how to take a passable photo through glass.
But life in the aquarium is otherwise going swimmingly.
Thank you Eric and Roland for
the helpful comments on our sad truck.
A donut shop moved into
St. Paul a few months ago and Kayla picked up a part-time gig as donut
pusher. Time to drop by and see what the fuss is about!
Our garlic is doing good despite our renegade chickens destroying the mulch cover.
is quickly finding his niche on our farm. He still drops his belly down
when I try to pet him...but Aurora says that's not a bug; it's a
feature. After all, she could stand for hours and let me brush her,
especially at this time of year when she's shedding her winter fluff.
Why do I need another pettable goat on the premises exactly?
Elsewhere, our new
wether is proving to be equally adaptable. For the first week or so, I
gave him fresh hay on top of his safe spot --- the dog kennel where he
eats breakfast far from Aurora's overeager head butts. But then I
realized the imperfect hay that tends to build up in the bottom of our
manger was disappearing for the first time ever.
Out in the pasture,
Edgar is teaching Aurora some good habits --- like actually, you know, eating in the pasture rather than
just waiting for their daily out-of-pasture graze. On the other hand,
our new goat is a serious bark eater, so I'll have to keep a close eye
on him if I ever decide to tether him near fruit trees.
As a side note, a couple
of you have commented on his size --- pretty darn puny compared to our
doeling who is his exact same age. "Will he get any bigger?" you ask.
I'd say he will since he grew slowly with pretty much no access to
concentrates and without the extreme milk bar Aurora enjoyed. That
said, he is a pure Dwarf Nigerian rather
than sharing Aurora's 1/4 Nubian blood, so I'd expect him to always
trail behind her in bulk.
interesting trait is --- he's a nibbler! Hold out your fingers and they
end up in his mouth. I guess that's better than running away when I get
We tested the new
flame weeder out for the first time this year.
The goats and I headed
to the creek Sunday afternoon to find more life to add to my aquaponics setup. The first catch came in the
still waters of our so-called alligator swamp. (No, there are no
alligators in southwest Virginia.) Two overwintering Green Frog
tadpoles were easy to scoop up and are definitely big enough that they
won't get eaten like the baby Wood Frog tadpoles did. After all, these
tadpoles are bigger around than their neighboring fish!
Speaking of fish,
I doubled our school with two more scooped out of the same spot in our
smaller creek. Without knowing their species, it's tough to find much
definitive information online. But if they're anything like Longnose
Dace, then I have two juveniles (with firm dark lines down their sides)
and two adults.
One of the thin CFL bulbs
stopped working recently on the aquaponic experiment.
If you've got a small
garden or just a widespread wish list, it's tempting to start several
varieties of seedlings in the same flat. That can work...just as long
as you don't put fast- and slow-sprouters together.
Step one on making the new
wheelchair chicken tractor is to extend the width.
They say you can't
really tell the effects of a flame weeder until the next day, so I went
back twenty-four hours later to see how Mark's test plot
fared. This was a moderate-level request of the tool --- trying to kill
perennial weeds, but low-lying, unvigorous ones that had popped up on a
fallow bed through the course of the winter.
"Hi, Anna--I'd forgotten the role of the sheep bell wether: to lead the herd, since the wether is the most trainable!!"
I'm ashamed to say that I didn't believe "bellwether" was referring to a neutered male animal like Edgar, so I looked it up. And, as always, Mom was right! What an interesting peek into the utility of wethers, dating back to the fourteenth century.
Extending the support brace with a smaller pipe helped to firm up the design.
cherries bloom on
our farm before any other fruiting plants...which is pretty but tends
to mean we don't get any fruit from the bushes.
Now that Aurora is the Alpha
goat she's decided to let me pet her.
While my minnows continue to thrive and fill
me with joy, I have to admit that the plant-life in the top of the aquaponics
setup is far less
inspiring. Egyptian onions bit the dust (probably due to
overharvesting), celery is growing as slow as molasses, and my squash
plants are trying to bloom while their bush is only about eight inches
The spot we grow herbs is producing year two of Oregano for us.
Wendy Trehus wrote in
last week to share her experiments with a hot frame created out of a
55-gallon drum combined with a water-bed heater.
Sometimes a project like the new chicken tractor goes smoother when using all three drills and the reciprocating saw.
March is the month of
perennials on our farm. Pruning, weeding, topdressing, mulching --- all
fun tasks to slide into the warm afternoons that crop up at least a few
times a week.
While I'm at it, I took
a look at my one perennial experiment of the year --- budded plums. I grafted two buds per
rootstock last summer, and it looks like that was just right since one
of those buds (generally the top one) seems to have glued itself into
the rootstock fairly well. I snipped the tops off the small trees to
talk them into turning those grafted buds into shoots and will wait and
see what progresses over the course of the growing season ahead.
I secured the bottom support piece by drilling holes in the wheelchair foot rest and then used treated deck screws to attach them together.
What's wrong with this
photo? I'll bet you can't guess!
Either Edgar's started
laying eggs or our rascally chickens have taken their hidden-egg caches
to another level. Good thing Mark's building a chicken
tractor to keep our
unruly flock in its place!
Microwave frozen shitake mushrooms for 30 seconds to thaw out for cooking.
grapes on the trellis on the south side of the trailer are growing so vigorously
that they finally needed some serious pruning. I took the existing
tangle and snipped back vines so each strand of wire supported a
single vine coming toward the center from each direction.
We like to water our baby sprouts every three days at this time of year.
Scientists don't like
the term "global warming" because not all areas are getting hotter. And
even spots like ours where the average temperatures are rising showcase
a much more prominent change --- more climate extremes of both sorts
(highs and lows).
I attached this barbed wire a
year ago and it ended up being a mistake.
I recently picked back
up the recorder after dabbling in it briefly in fourth grade and
college. Interestingly, the experience is very different this time
A recent film school project where I helped record sound for some interviews with Goodwill Industries in Kingsport.
My inside seedlings took
off like a rocket after Mark
built them a special spot under the elevated sofa complete with fluorescent
The only trouble
is...the broccoli is already growing out the bottom of the flat and
searching for real dirt! These babies aren't supposed to move to the
garden for another three weeks, but I'm already discarding
my own advice and
considering setting them out early. After all, one ten degree night
aside, it does appear to be an early spring. Right?
I was a lazy, lazy
homesteader this fall. Well, actually, I was too sick to do many of my
usual tasks, so I let most of them slide. But the results are the same.
I didn't mulch bare spots in the garden. I didn't put away all of the
sprinklers. And I never got around to hooking
up the backup heat
in the fridge root cellar.
Sometimes the Kubota X900
shift lever gets stuck.
These aren't the first
flowers I saw in 2017. But they are the first flowers I saw on the
first day of spring...which makes them the first spring flowers, right?
The latest egg hiding spot for our renegade hen is underneath the bee hive box.
The cold snap has
passed, and now warm weather is once again tempting me out into the
garden. Good thing too because it's finally time to plant carrots and
This year, I'm trying a
hybrid approach to my pea-planting. I was excited by how well inside-started
seeds did in the
garden last spring...but a bit daunted by the idea of starting several
flats of peas to hit our full quota. But what if I direct-seed the
rows, then fill in gaps with inside-started seedlings?
horse manure delivery we
got back in the Summer is still paying dividends.
Has anyone out there
ever dealt with goat external parasites? I think Aurora must have
picked up some kind of biters, because she's been acting funny for the
last few days. She'll be grazing quite happily...then she leaps and
stomps and runs as if trying to evade a wasp. Unfortunately, there
never is a wasp, so she can't escape.
niece, D.D., was kind enough to foster our chicks this year.
Kayla is one of the best
people I've ever met at finding free and fun activities close to home.
This time, she rustled up an adult art class funded through the 21st Century
Learning Center grant program. First installment ---
The chicken tractor waterer will sit in the middle to distribute the weight of the water.
We can handle some
winter chicken scratching in the garden, but a minor nuisance becomes
potential crop loss once peas are in the ground and seedlings are
coming up. Meanwhile, it seems futile to feed hens if they're hiding
caches of eggs under
the bee hive or in the goat
since those infertile eggs won't hatch without a rooster around.
It's been almost a year since
I first used Flex
Seal to make this lid stop leaking.
I'll admit that I'm
unimpressed by the lettuce this spring in the cold
frame. I suspect the issue is temperature extremes (too hot when I
forget to open the glass, too cold when I forget to close the glass)
combined with moisture extremes (too dry most of the time, then swamped
when water gushes off the roof and onto the baby plants). The
over-wintering arugula, on the other hand, is going gangbusters.
Lucy died Saturday night
at the ripe old age of twelve and a half. She was the kind of dog who
turned cat people into dog people, but that's only the tip of the
iceberg. She was...
a swimmer of floods...
a stealer of firewood...
a chewer of sticks...
a killer of rats...
a protector of farm animals both large and very small...
always joyful, always eager...
Up until her last day, she offered us more love than we deserved.
We love you Lucy. You will be missed.
Start with a bowl of
thinnings from your vegetable flats. Many (but not all!) vegetables are
edible at the seedling stage. In general, figure if you eat the leaves
or stems of the adult plant, then the seedlings are probably good to
eat as well. Here, I thinned onions, broccoli, parsley, and Swiss chard
to add to our salad.
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