Why are we moving this ancient freezer?
To have a rodent proof
container to store goat feed near the Star Plate coop.
Yes...Anna helped push once
she finished taking pictures.
Autumn weather arrived
this past weekend and the long-range forecast suggests it may stick
around. Luckily, we're mostly in gravy mode in the garden ---
we've packed away enough vegetables to last us for the winter, and are
just enjoying eating the rest of the harvest (with occasional bouts of
tomato drying or pepper freezing for variety later in the year).
The figs are still dragging their feet and refusing to ripen, but the
blueberries are winding down and the red raspberries are in full swing.
Mom asked what I planned to do if we get an early frost and I said that,
really, we're ready. Not that I want summer to end, but when
freezing temperatures are forecast, we'll just let them happen.
One experiment hasn't quite reached it conclusion --- the sorghum plants
I seeded at the beginning of July. Just as our current cool spell
came in, the plants shot up even higher and pushed out flower heads,
which may or may not have time to turn into seeds before the
frost. I took the photo to the left with the zoom feature since
these heads are way out of my reach, making our tall sunflowers look
like midgets in comparison.
Cooler weather also reminds me that it's time to pay attention to the bees. I did a second varroa-mite count
last weekend and was extremely pleased with the results --- 2.5 mites
per day in the daughter hive and 3.5 mites per day in the mother
hive. Our Texas bees continue to be worth their weight in gold.
But are they worth their
weight in honey? Now that the humidity has dropped below 90%, I'm
hoping for a sunny and moderately warm afternoon to harvest honey from
the mother hive. (The daughter will have the empty bottom box
removed but will otherwise be left alone.) Maybe Friday?
How is the new Swisher
trimmer mower on very steep hills?
Like a dream!
The above hill took a lot of
effort with our blade mower, but today was easy once I got the hang of
letting the machine drive it up the hill. Gravity takes over when you
release the engagement lever for the downward portion.
I don't usually cross-promote books here if we publish them but they're written by someone else. But our publishing wing
has become the majority of our bread and butter lately, so I hope you
don't mind the occasional plug...especially if it comes with a
I'll start with the part
you're probably most interested in --- the free stuff! I rooted a
cutting from my father's Brown Turkey fig this year, and the sapling is
looking for a zone-7 or warmer home. Daddy is picking a gallon of
figs a day from this little tree's mother, and says that fig pie is his
current favorite way to consume the fruit. As long as you don't
live in a cold climate, fig trees require nearly no care, and can be fit
into an area about eight feet in diameter (although I hear they get
much larger in California). Why not enter to win your own no-work
What if you live up
north? Don't worry, I'll swap out your prize for something more
appropriate. You might prefer cuttings from my Chicago hardy fig --- these are easy to root and will produce fruit (with a little care) up through zone 6. However, if even that is too
tropical for your tastes, you can choose either a medley of our
favorite seeds, or a signed copy of one of my (or Aimee's) books.
And, if a northerner wins the prize, I'll pick a second winner to give
the fig tree to!
How do you enter the
giveaway? Just plug our books using the widget below. Aimee
has several new books out now or soon --- you've probably heard me
mention Shiftless, which has already sold over 3,000 copies and will be an audio book within a few weeks; Burgling the Dragon is available at a special preorder price of 99 cents through September 30; and Aimee's short story Flight of the Billionaire's Sister will make you itch to read her newest novel, slated to release in November or December. Oh, and did I mention that her short-story collection
is free on Amazon today? Once books are out of the preorder
period, you can also borrow nearly all of her books (and mine too!)
using Amazon Prime or Kindle Unlimited, so why not check some out?
Thanks in advance for reading and for spreading the word!
a Rafflecopter giveaway
We put together the new Swisher
trimmer mower today.
It feels like more than twice
the cutting power of our previous mower.
I'm still learning how to use
it. When the self propelled mechanism is engaged I found myself
struggling to keep up with its pace. It's better to just pump the
engagement lever a few seconds at a time to let the machine do most of
of Mom's friends gave her this unripe passionflower fruit, which she
then passed along to me. Since the maypop is edible and the vine
is often included in permaculture texts, I might see if the fruit had
gotten far enough along on the vine to produce viable seeds.
I'm always up for growing an experimental species, even though I have a
feeling that, if maypops tasted all that good, I would have eaten one
before since they're native to our region and since I grew up amid
the meantime, I'd be curious to hear from those of you who have grown
passionflowers in your garden. I know the blossoms are beautiful,
but is the fruit worth eating?
ratchet straps are 5 years old and rusty.
My new method is to store the
new one in a ziploc bag to protect it from the elements.
I wish I could give you a
solid recipe for the paste I made Saturday because it's based on beans
but even Mark found it delicious. (Plus, all of the ingredients
except the olive oil, salt, pepper, and walnuts are ripe on the farm
right now). But I mostly just put in some of this and some of that
until the paste tasted right. Here's my best guess on
- 1 heaping cup of scarlet runner beans in the lima-bean stage, pods removed
- 1 cup of homemade chicken broth
- 2 small red peppers, minced
- 4 small sprigs of fresh thyme
- 1 large clove of garlic, minced
- salt and pepper
- olive oil (about 0.25 cups, enough to get the consistency hummusy)
- 1 large handful of dried tomatoes, on the soft side rather than thoroughly dried
- 1 small handful of walnuts
the beans, broth, peppers, thyme, and garlic in the chicken broth for
about 20 minutes, until the beans are soft. (Unfortunately, the
brilliant color goes away and the beans turn gray at this point.)
Cool, then puree the mixture in the food processor with the other
ingredients. If you're smart, you'll blend up the tomatoes and
walnuts first, but they worked out okay added in later.
Make little tacos out of Malabar spinach leaves filled with bean paste,
chopped arugula, and thinly sliced tomatoes, red peppers, and edible-pod
peas. These can be eaten with one hand like a soft taco if you're
careful not to overfill. While this serving method is a bit
time-consuming to prepare, it's pretty and fun for a special
occasion! Happy birthday, farm!
The new self propelled
trimmer mower showed up a week early.
Her first day on the job will
be Monday if it doesn't rain.
I suspect we'll be making our own upgraded black-soldier-fly bin next year. The bin we bought
is an awesome introduction...but I keep overfilling it since I have 50
pounds of moldy chicken feed to work my way through. Last week,
the mass of decomposing chicken feed heated up so much that white larvae
crawled off, and even when I'm more careful, I feel like the bin is
getting waterlogged and full of castings when I add half a gallon of
chicken feed (soaked to become about a gallon) per week.
The photo above shows the
kind of crawl-off I'd rather see --- just the black pupae. This
type of heavy harvest comes about once a week, when I add more chicken
feed and soak the bin contents in the process. On other days, I
instead get perhaps a couple dozen pupae, still enough to make our
tractored hens happy. But more pupae is definitely better, and I
now understand why you might want to have a 10- or 20-gallon bin.
Or perhaps to have several smaller bins (although I'd still want them
all to be located right outside the back door where it's easy to put in
scraps and to take out pupae for the chickens).
Meanwhile, there's at
least one feature of our current bin that I don't feel is working as it
should. The velcro strip around the top of the bin, meant to keep
pupae from escaping without crawling into the collection bin, has a gap
in each corner just big enough for pupae to wriggle through. I
keep finding drowned pupae in the ant-trap moat around the bin, which makes me sad.
While I'm writing a wish
list of future changes, I'd like to drill holes in the top of the
collection jar just large enough for an adult fly to escape, but too
small for a pupa to get through.
Three times now, I've seen adult flies trapped in the collection bin,
once because I left a pupa inside too long and it hatched, but twice
because the flies went to lay their eggs in the main bin and ended up
exiting in a different direction.
That said, our bin is
providing a healthy dose of animal protein for our flock nearly every
day, and the number of larvae inside seems to keep growing. I
caught one fly laying eggs inside the handle of the drainpipe last week
(which I transferred to the bin), but I suspect there have been many
other sets of eggs laid without my notice. I'm definitely ready to
say that Mark is right --- black soldier flies are a good fit for our
farm. Now we just need to work the kinks out of the operation.
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