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How many batteries do I need for my solar panels?

Square foot gardening rebuttal

Smallest wood stoves

How to help chicks during hatching

Wood stove in a mobile home

Mar 2014

A year ago this week:

Rooting the Brown Turkey figs

Gutter adjustment

Heavy duty shade trellis

How to protect chickens from hawks, raccoons, and more

Mar 2013

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Trimming Artemesia

We trim the goat hooves once a month, but let Abigail skip this month due to her being a little grumpy about being wrangled with her extra weight.

Artemesia likes the attention but wiggles a lot. I ended up holding her while Anna finished the last hoof.

Posted Wed Mar 4 15:55:54 2015 Tags:
The Naturally Bug-Free Garden

There's a new book on my shelf...and maybe on yours as well? I braved the flooded creek Tuesday to bring my first copy of The Naturally Bug-Free Garden home, a copy that I ordered from Amazon since the box from my publisher is running late. It was just too hard to wait any longer to hold my second paperback in my hands....


Do you want to jumpstart your 2015 garden with a primer on natural pest-control techniques? If so, you can get order the paperback here:

Or you can join in my launch treasure hunt and enter for a chance to win a signed copy of your very own! Just head to your local library or bookstore and ask if they have The Naturally Bug-Free Garden in stock, snap a photo of my book in the wild, then enter using the widget below. Or, if you've already bought a copy and want to win a copy for a friend, snap a shot of yourself with your new book! I'm letting this giveaway run for a full month so that you'll have time to request your librarian stock a copy for even easier entries. (Yes, strangely, I get even more of a kick out of hearing folks tell me that they checked one of my books out of their local library rather than buying their own copy.) May the hunt begin!

Posted Wed Mar 4 07:04:57 2015 Tags:
goat milking stand upgrade

We upgraded our goat milking stand today.

The neck brace is now wider and taller with a top piece to lock in place.

Everyday this week seems like a possible baby goat day.

Posted Tue Mar 3 15:59:01 2015 Tags:
Log in the snow

When I was reading up on inoculating logs with shiitake mycelium, recommendations on log sizes varied widely, ranging from 3 to 12 inches in diameter. Large logs tend to fruit longer and to hold moisture better during dry spells. On the other hand, small logs fruit faster and are easier to wrangle (especially if you plan to soak logs to force fruiting).

One factor I didn't read about, but soon thought of once I started looking at the logs Mark cut for me, is the sapwood-to-heartwood ratio. Shiitakes only eat the sapwood, the pale-colored wood around the outer perimeter of the log. And bigger logs, especially if they grew slowly in woodland settings, might have three quarters of their volume made up of useless heartwood, leaving the fungi far less food than you might think.

Sapwood versus heartwood

In case you can't pick out the sapwood in the first photo in this post, here's a labeled diagram to get you started. This log has been sitting around for a couple of weeks --- the color difference is even more evident in the wet wood of a newly cut log.

Looking closely at my logs got me thinking that maybe the puny 3-inch treetops that I had earmarked for firewood are actually better mushroom logs than these huge logs that I'd originally considered prime fungi fodder. In fact, the smaller-diameter logs have no heartwood at all, so they might contain nearly as much sapwood as the log pictured above. Assuming I'm willing to keep logs moist over the summer with sprinklers, perhaps little logs are the way to go after all?

The decision will have to be made soon because spring weather is finally upon us! Highs in the forties and lows in the twenties means it's finally safe to pull the mycelium out of the fridge and inoculate those logs. Time to enjoy the March Into Spring!

Posted Tue Mar 3 07:36:29 2015 Tags:
Splintered tree

When the snow slid off the barn roof, I almost thought I could feel the ground shake.

Unfortunately, the plum trees nearby were squashed by the avalanche. It looks like the snow danger zone extends out for at least twenty feet from each side of the barn.

Good thing Anna ordered plum rootstock to bring our devastated trees back to life.

Posted Mon Mar 2 15:10:25 2015 Tags:
Snow-covered hive

I took these photos a week ago, when snow had been on the ground for six days and I suddenly had the realization that my poor honeybees might be smothering inside their hive. I rushed out and brushed the entrance free, then pressed my ear against each side of each Brushing snow away from hivebox. Nothing. Nothing. Nothing. And then --- there! --- a low buzz.

The colony sounded awfully weak, which didn't really surprise me given the extremely low temperatures we'd been experiencing. But, at the same time, I knew that people successfully keep bees in much colder climates than ours, so I hoped for the best.

Imagine my joy when I went to listen again this past weekend and heard a louder hum. I think the bees were just hunkering down during the extreme cold, and I now have high hopes that they'll be able to make it until the first spring flowers begin to bloom. The dandelions should be out in force within a month --- hang in there, bees!

Posted Mon Mar 2 07:31:29 2015 Tags:
snow damage to the quick hoops

Our two quick hoops took some serious damage this Winter.

It was twice the damage compared to the 2012 snow load.

Posted Sun Mar 1 16:08:06 2015 Tags:
Snowy garden

Two weeks ago, when the snow and deep freeze hit our farm, spring ground to a halt. It wasn't until this past Saturday that I felt like we were on the upward swing once again. The snow is finally melting faster than it's falling, and here and there bits of plant matter are beginning to poke above the snow.

Hazel catkins

Hazel catkins loosening and disgorging their pollen are nearly always the first spring bloom on our farm. Like everything else, I noticed the first catkin just about blooming before our snow storm...then the hazel bush went right back to sleep. But with highs above forty forecast for most of the next week, I'm betting the maple sap will start flowing and we might even hear frogs as our snow finally melts away. I sure am glad we don't live in the North!

Posted Sun Mar 1 07:06:58 2015 Tags:
Playing with goats

I'm stealing Mark's spot to hit up our readers for timely advice. This morning, I became convinced that Abigail was going into labor, but now I'm not sure if what I'm seeing counts as contractions. At intervals, I'll see a ripple slide across her baby bump, often with a bulgy kid-part pushing out in an ungainly fashion. Once, I put my hand there and felt a hard kid hoof. Is this simply kids repositioning pre-labor, or do those movements count as contractions?

Goat chewing her cud

Other signs of imminent delivery abound. I caught Abigail arching her back like a cat once this morning, she's been yawning frequently, and she seems intent upon scratching the top of her head against the fence. Actually, our usually standoffish goat even came over and lay down right in front of me, then put her head in my lap asking for a head scratch. Meanwhile, Abigail has also been adamantly chasing our little doeling out of her immediate vicinity. Otherwise, though, she seems content to eat hay and chew her cud as usual.

So, what do you think --- should I be camping out in the starplate coop and locking our doe in her kidding stall, or relaxing until tomorrow?

Posted Sat Feb 28 15:23:13 2015 Tags:
Homemade bokashi starter culture

One of the soil additives that I'm researching this year for my upcoming book is bokashi --- a method of composting food scraps in a sealed five-gallon bucket at high speeds with little or no smell. The jury's still out on whether this is a trendy technique primarily of interest to apartment dwellers, or whether land-based homesteaders should also give it a try. I suspect Soaking newspaper in bokashi culturethat after reading the book and doing a few experiments of my own, I'll be far more loquacious about my feelings on the topic.

In the meantime, I followed some internet instructions to make a starter culture out of one cup of whey drained from plain yogurt, one cup of molasses, and six cups of warm water. Soaking newspaper in this mixture, letting the excess water drain off, then sealing the wet newspaper in a ziplock bag to ferment on top of the fridge for two weeks is supposed to create a bokashi-like starter culture (although author Adam Footer believes that this culture isn't as high quality as the store-bought cultures some use). Mark's trying to talk me into buying some of the official starter culture too as a side-by-side comparison, which does sound like a useful way to dip into the advance from my publisher.

In the meantime, I'd love to hear from you. Have you tried bokashi? What did you feel were the pros and cons of the composting technique?

Posted Sat Feb 28 07:50:14 2015 Tags:

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