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Fighting tomato blight with pennies

Refrigerator root cellar, step 1...dig

Refrigerator root cellar chimney cap

Smallest wood stoves

Automatic chicken door

Oct 2014

A year ago this week:

Best battery powered chainsaw

Mixing fava beans with other cover crops

Wright brothers + sister = powered flight

Backseat driver

Oct 2013

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Goat, oats, and hazels

Our staycation coincided perfectly with a week of seemingly endless rain. Then, when Monday told us to get back to work...the sun came out! The change in weather gave everyone on our farm the gumption to jump back into outside tasks joyfully.

Six week old Red Rangers

Mom asked what we're up to now that our staycation is over. I've still got a few beds of garlic and lettuce to plant this week, but mostly we're in renovation mode to make sure that this year's garden weeds don't get away from us the way they did last year. In fall 2014, the only straw we had on hand was seedy, so our mulch was worth than useless. This year, our straw is great and we've also got time to plant a rye cover crop in bare beds. Just gotta get rid of the results of last year's laxness before the ground becomes too cold for my tender fingers!

Posted Tue Oct 6 07:16:14 2015 Tags:
minox drinking water container

We've had the Minox 25 Liter stainless steel drinking container for almost three years now.

Our pump sends water from the well through a sediment filter and UV light where it gets stored in the Minox which is elevated on a shelf for gravity assistance.

Posted Mon Oct 5 15:55:00 2015 Tags:

Free homesteading booksIt's that time of year again when I purge my bookshelf of books I'm no longer reading so I can make room for new interests. Many of this year's texts come highly recommended --- I've just milked all of the knowledge I can from them and am ready to pass the carriers of information on.

Want free books of your very own? Head over here and take my four question survey about your reading habits and you'll be given a link to the rafflecopter form to enter the giveaway. I'm going to give away the books in groups of three or four to allow more people to win, so be sure to take a minute to decide which books you want the most now. Your options include:

As you'll be able to tell from my survey, I'm trying to decide whether to stick with Amazon's KDP Select program, which requires me to keep my books exclusive with them if I want readers to be able to borrow the titles for free using Kindle Unlimited. So consider this post a warning as well as an oportunity. If you were thinking of borrowing my books but haven't gotten around to it, you might want to do so now in case I start pulling them out of the program! Happy reading.

Posted Mon Oct 5 07:36:38 2015 Tags:
Red Ranger update

Our flock of Fall broilers are growing like weeds.

We're both impressed with the foraging skills of Red Rangers.

Posted Sun Oct 4 15:48:04 2015 Tags:
Cute goat

So, I've been tearing up the virtual pavement trying to find Artemesia just the right date. There was that nice Mini-Nubian buck who wanted her to come stay over for a month...but Abigail and I begged our darling doeling not to go since we would have missed her too much. A high-class Dwarf Nigerian offered to meet Artemesia for a quick hookup, but he never told us his phone number and didn't call back after he saw her online profile. (Poor Artie felt so jilted.) Then there was the blue-collar guy who I was trying to set her up with...until I took a closer look and decided maybe I needed to be thinking about another sort of date entirely.

Goat pooch test

Goat from aboveTwo weeks, ago, the pooch test appeared negative. But now, considering this lineup of goat butts, I'm suddenly 50% sure Lamb Chop actually managed to do the deed in June after all. Meanwhile, my post on a goat forum resulted in two expert opinions, both in favor of Artemesia being knocked up.

Artemesia is a lot rounder lately too, but she and Abigail have been eating more hay since the weather turned wet and I cleared the old stuff out of the manger. I'd say our doeling appears just as big on the right side as the left side at the moment --- inconclusive.

The biggest point in favor of a possible pregnancy is that Artemesia doesn't seem to have come into heat at all this fall. Abigail has --- our usually quiet goat yelled like crazy this week and sported mucous under her tail. But Artie --- usually the chatty one --- has been mild-mannered and quiet for months.

Goat friends

So maybe I have a first freshener on my hands, not a doeling after all? This would be wonderful news --- winter milk starting up just about the time Abigail dries off, plus a doeling who will kid while fat and happy on summer browse.

Depending on whether a Mini-Nubian counts as a standard breed or a miniature breed, Artemesia would be due between November 5 and November 10. Gulp. I'd better start training her to enjoy butternuts and carrots if I want to keep that healthy layer of fat on her back. And if the signs of pregnancy continue to look positive, we can buckle down for the next step --- guessing how many kids will pop out.

Posted Sun Oct 4 07:34:14 2015 Tags:
Anna holding pullet egg

Our new hens started laying two weeks after we installed Christmas lights.

Posted Sat Oct 3 15:44:12 2015 Tags:
Trail blaze

Before I started on my hike, Mark admonished me "You'll stay on the trail, right?"

"Of course I will," I promised. And I really did mean to. The trouble was the blazes.

Actually, I was highly impressed by how well the trail was marked at first. If you understand blazes --- pay attention to the color and look for double-blazes to alert you to an unexpected turn --- following the trail from the High Knob Tower to Edith Gap was child's play.

National forest

Okay, yes, I'll admit that as I got closer to Edith Gap, the trail got slightly trickier. Orange blazes joined the yellow as a horse trail cohabited with my walking trail. And, in some spots, only orange blazes existed to mark both avenues. But after I figured out what was going on, I was okay with that.


The trouble happened when my trail crossed the next forest-service road...and seemed to disappear. While the higher-elevation portions of the Chief Benge trail could just as well have been located in a National Park, this region shows the reality of trail-building in the National Forest --- clearcuts. Through some oversight, a clearcut had been smacked down right in the middle of the trail, meaning that I was suddenly walking through a thicket of five-year-old trees with no blazes in sight. Gulp.

Repaired backpack

Enter my handy, dandy map. When walking over new ground, I try to bring along a high-quality topo map at all times. And here's why --- the visual helped me figure out how to bushwhack in just the right direction so I could meet back up with the trail less than half a mile downstream. Success!

Board walk

I think I probably used more calories during my fifteen minutes being lost than I did during the whole rest of the hike. And since the blazes were suddenly scanty from there on out, I tired myself out yet more wondering if I'd actually found the right trail and was heading in the right direction. Boy was I glad to see this boardwalk at the upper end of Bark Camp Lake, proving that I'd not only guessed correctly, but was also on the home stretch.

Bark Camp Lake
All told, I figure I might have walked about 13 miles that day. There's the half mile round trip from home to car to tack on, plus another mile or so from accidentally going around the long side of both High Knob Lake and Bark Camp Lake. (Oops.)

I'll admit that I wouldn't have wanted to walk longer, and I did end up with tired muscles and sore feet. But I learned that a hike of that magnitude is definitely not beyond my means, which is an empowering feeling.

I do think I'll wait a while before hiking the other half of the Chief Benge trail, though....

Posted Sat Oct 3 07:40:21 2015 Tags:
Martian movie day

We went to see "The Martian" on our last day of staycation.

Science + space travel + humanure = an awesome movie adventure.

Posted Fri Oct 2 18:10:10 2015 Tags:
Benges Trail

Mark made the excellent point that if I was going to challenge myself to a long hike that might push my capabilities, it was best to start as early as possible. To that end, I milked Abigail by flashlight before dawn, and we hit the top of High Knob a bit after 8. The mists were very heavy, so I didn't get to enjoy sunrise from the tower. But I was too excited to care.

High elevation fungi

Instead I walked with a big grin on my face...and photographed fungi. We've had a relatively rainy week down in our valley, but I could tell that High Knob is much wetter than even our soggy farm. How can I tell? I measure overall precipitation for an area by fungal proliferation, and High Knob definitely won out in that department.

(The astute naturalist will notice that there are two lichens above...or at least I think that one in front of my hand is a lichen. But they're related to fungi, so I included them in the collage. Also, don't miss the high-elevation birch polypore in the top shot!)

Fallen tree leaves

I also enjoyed the fact that high-elevation trees are already starting to sport their fall foliage, making the hike particularly beautiful. In fact, I was able to measure my downhill progress by the leaves beneath my feet. Up high, sugar maple leaves coated the forest floor, but I eventually dropped down into the land of tulip-trees, and then walked up onto a drier ridge where blackgums dominated.

Red eft(And, hey, look --- a newt! I actually saw seven of these along the trail.)

My hike was going swimmingly. After a couple of miles, my can-I-do-it? jitters had washed away. My first lunch of two peanut butter apples and my second lunch of homemade mozzarella with peppers, tomatoes, and snow peas hit the spot...especially when washed down with a thawing quart of goat milk. And I could tell that my planned timing --- 2 miles per hour, plus a spare hour for wiggle room --- was going to get me to the destination just a little early. Perfect!

And then I got lost....

Posted Fri Oct 2 06:48:29 2015 Tags:

$10 Root CellarThis is just a quick post to alert you to two special deals. First the freebie --- we ended up with three more boxes of Egyptian onion top bulbs. The first three people to email their mailing address to me at will be the lucky winners of this delicious and easy perennial vegetable! (Unfortunately, we can only mail these within the U.S. --- sorry to our international readers.) The onions are now claimed!

In other news, my $10 Root Cellar ebook is marked down to half price today only. In addition to the project that led to the title, the book includes tips on growing roots, feeding roots to livestock, and much more. I hope you enjoy it!

Posted Thu Oct 1 12:19:04 2015 Tags:

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