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Jun 2016
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Fighting tomato blight with pennies

How to help chicks during hatching

How many batteries do I need for my solar panels?

Moth pupa in the soil

Automatic chicken door

Jun 2015

A year ago this week:

Goat meat taste test (and envy over apples)

Harvest sickle field test

Successful persimmon grafting

Battery powered chainsaw cleaning

Jun 2014

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tie down vines of berries
Securing berry limbs so they stay off the ground and keep growing.
Posted Tue Jun 28 15:38:55 2016 Tags:
Row cover

When it comes to bad bugs in the garden, a stitch in time definitely saves nine.

Japanese beetlesLast week, the first Japanese beetles showed up in our garden. I pick intruders once or twice a week at this time of year, simply dropping the beetles into a cup of water that I later pour into the chicken tractor. Since these beetles set up mating territories when they first appear, if you snag the early birds you'll end up with little damage later in the season.

Cabbage worms are a bit trickier. I mostly try to avoid them by not having crucifers in the garden during the summer months. This year's early broccoli was perfect since we harvested nearly all of the heads before the voracious caterpillars showed up. But I wanted to plant brussels sprouts early to get a head start on the winter growing season. What to do? How about covering up those beds with row-cover fabric to avoid the bug problem entirely?

If you'd like to learn more about my low-work, completely chemical-free pest-control practices, I hope you'll check out my book The Naturally Bug-Free Garden. Hopefully your garden ecosystem will be more complete and your harvests more abundant after the read.

Posted Tue Jun 28 07:02:28 2016 Tags:
Anna holding Aurora at vet office

Aurora was not acting like her normal happy self this morning.

We took her in for a vet visit and she got a vitamin shot with some vaccine boosters.

She's feeling a little better and might just be feeling the switch from Mother's milk to weeds and leaves.

Posted Mon Jun 27 15:57:32 2016 Tags:

Tomato bushSeveral of you were concerned about chemical contamination in our horse manure. Luckily, we live in an impoverished area where excess chemicals aren't used that often simply because they're expensive. Here's my previous post on the topic. If our farm was located in Lexington or northern Virginia where pastures are weed-free and perfectly manicured, I'd be much more concerned.

That said, whenever you find a new source of organic matter, it is a good idea to test it out before going hog wild. Luckily, we found out about this year's horse manure from a homesteading buddy and he got his dump-truck load a solid month before we did. A picture is worth a thousand words, so I'll let his tomato plants speak for themselves. In fact, when I asked him what he thought of the fertility source, he sounded like a born-again organic gardener. "All the years we've been gardening," he said, "I can't imagine why we didn't add manure to the soil!" So it sounds like the manure isn't only's turbo-charged!

Posted Mon Jun 27 06:50:24 2016 Tags:
chairs side by side

When Anna first moved here she found a white plastic chair in the creek.

It quickly became her office chair behind her desk.

I tried to get her to upgrade but was met with the same "I love my chair!"

Every year I bring it up at least once and this year I finally won that argument and convinced her to upgrade to a proper Executive chair.

She reports better posture and less aches after long hours of writing.

Posted Sun Jun 26 16:19:14 2016 Tags:

In Mom's family, there's always been talk of "that woman," who introduced dark coloration to the family. The romantic notion is that she was a gypsy shipwrecked off the coast of New England. We decided to find out if that was really the case, so Mom spit in a tube and we sent in her DNA to be analyzed.

Swedish grandparentsTwo of Mom's grandparents came to the U.S from Sweden during their lifetimes, so it's unsurprising that Scandinavia makes up such a large chunk of her DNA markers. The actual percent Scandinavian could range from 0 to 46, so I'm going to guess that the average shown is a bit of an underestimate.

Rhode Island grandmotherThe Rhode Island wing of Mom's family can eventually be traced back to at least one ancestor who came to North America in 1630 from England...and a bunch of other ancestors with who-knows-what background. Based on Mom's DNA test results, it looks like many of these unaffiliated ancestors may have been Irish or from Western Europe (although Mom says Wales is the location most spoken of in her family).

What about "that woman"? Maybe she was from Spain, Portugal, Italy, or Greece. Or maybe it was just dark Irish coloration coming through. Unfortunately, the ancestor in question has been dead for many, many years, so there won't be any DNA test results to find out for sure.

Posted Sun Jun 26 06:43:54 2016 Tags:
Anna using plant-scapers on a cucumber plant

We are trying out a new product made by a friend of a friend called Plant-Scaper.

Anna likes the way it looks and I like how easy it is to set up and store.

A nice upgrade from those tomato cages that take up way too much space.

Posted Sat Jun 25 15:09:09 2016 Tags:
Bee drinking honey

At long last, I can report good news from the apiary! Both hives are so busy I had to add an extra box apiece. And our basswood tree is blooming this year, so we might actually get to harvest honey despite our spring swarms.

Bee brood

The even better news is that the queen is finally laying in the Langstroth part of our hybrid hive. There's still brood in the Warre box, so I can't complete the transition just yet. But hopefully I'll soon be able to take that top box off and remove it with honey inside.


Tall hives are a good sign, especially when all but one box in each is drawn and in use. I checkerboarded new frames between drawn frames in the Langstroth hive, which seems to be handy for getting the bees to use the new space faster. In the Warre hive, I instead had to put an empty box in the stack second from the bottom. Here's hoping the bees put both annexes to good use soon and keep up the good work.

Posted Sat Jun 25 06:46:45 2016 Tags:
Freddy with his dump truck of horse manure

We met a new neighbor today.

Freddy sold us a dump truck load of his horse manure for 75 dollars.

Posted Fri Jun 24 15:44:35 2016 Tags:
Goat bolus

I'm totally sold on copper boluses for our goats. It's been two months since Artemesia's first treatment, and I was surprised to see how much orange showed back up in her hair during the intervening period. The change in hue is a clear sign that she was deficient in this important mineral despite having free-choice access to kelp and a salt/mineral mixture, so I'm glad I finally figured out the essential caprine supplement.

Our doe isn't all the way back to her original coloration, though, probably because I was careful and only gave her the bare minimum amount of copper recommended for a goat her size the first time around. So I decided to
follow Dr. O'Brien's advice and give her another dose.

Copper goat cookies

At the same time, I'm bolusing our kids for the first time too. The stress of weaning can cause worm overloads, so now's a good time to make sure Punkin gets off to a good start. My planned dosages Dividing copper boluswere 1 gram for Punkin (because he's huge and being weaned), 0.5 grams for Aurora (because she's smaller and not being weaned), and 2.5 grams for Artemesia.

Unfortunately, my no-bake bolus balls were still a bit too big to be eaten in one go. So Artemesia actually got about 1.25 grams, Punkin got 0.5 grams, and Aurora got nothing. I'll try them again this afternoon to see if they'd like another dose, but I'm also pretty willing to be content with that dosage since I'm allowed to readminister as early as six weeks. Here's hoping that by then Artemesia's belly is once more as orange as it was when she was a kid.

Posted Fri Jun 24 07:11:25 2016 Tags:

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