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Moth pupa in the soil

How to help chicks during hatching

Fighting tomato blight with pennies

Square foot gardening rebuttal

Automatic chicken door

May 2015

A year ago this week:

Feeding tree leaves to goats

Teva sandal surgery

Grafting persimmons

PEX tubing drip irrigation system

May 2014

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Baby phoebe

Bug zapper 2.0 has launched.

Five baby phoebes are almost too many for the nest to hold.
Posted Sat May 28 14:27:20 2016 Tags:
Goats at the gate
The goats like to wait for me at the gate.

Okay, I never said they were all on the same side of the gate.

Goat family

More seriously, there's been some trouble in paradise over the last few weeks --- hoof rot. As these things go, I suspect it's a very light case, but the recessed hoof area freaked me out enough to order some zinc sulfate to stop the bad bugs in their tracks. While I was waiting for the drug to arrive, I also instituted once-a-week hoof trimming, which Artemesia submitted to with her usual "please don't...but okay if you must" grace. Interestingly, by the time the Hoof-n-Heel came in the mail, her problematic hoof area was already starting to regrow.

Hoof trimming day

I suspect the root of the problem was threefold. First, Abigail was a bully and often didn't allow Artemesia to stand up out of the mud on the loafing stations...even though we put two porches in the pasture to ensure there was enough space. Yes, our ex-herd queen would run back and forth chasing Artemesia away from anything tantalizing just for the fun of it.

Second, the threadworms that popped up in Artmesia's fecal matter were a warning sign I should have paid more attention to. I did read that threadworms can cause hoof rot as well as being an intestinal parasite but I ignored that issue since our goats' feet have always been top notch.

Finally, I skipped hoof-trimming during Artemesia's last month of pregnancy because she really wasn't in the mood. But a slight jostling of her kids would have been worth nipping the hoof rot in the bud.

Treating for hoof rot

All of that said, it's not the end of the world. I'll keep treating the problematic front hooves daily with the zinc sulfate and trimming weekly until all signs are gone, and I've also rotated to a new pasture in hopes of keeping our doe off wormy ground.

Now that Artemesia is back eating lots of greenery, her overall health has improved so much that she might have been able to fight off the problem on her own. And even the weather is cooperating, turning hot and dry. So hopefully our darling goat will be back at 100% in short order.

Goat kids

Oh and here's one last cute-goat photo to make up for regaling you with such a difficult topic today. Our goat kids really might be growing faster than the weeds!

Posted Sat May 28 06:54:08 2016 Tags:
Basket of broccoli
We had to plug our big freezer back in today.

Fourteen pints of broccoli is twice as much as we froze in all of 2015.

Even better, two-thirds of the crop is still in the garden.

Posted Fri May 27 15:50:38 2016 Tags:
Pristine broccoli

What's the first thing you look at when you pick a head of broccoli out of your garden? Personally, I flip the whole thing over and search for signs of cabbage worms. This year, each head I've harvested has been pristine.

What's the secret? Starting the plants early so they bulk up before butterfly season is in full swing. (Yes, the cabbage "moth" is really a butterfly.) I cover this and other permaculture tactics for dealing with pest invertebrates without chemicals in The Naturally Bug-Free Garden. Here's hoping your broccoli is just as sweet and caterpillar-free as ours have been this spring.

Posted Fri May 27 06:40:29 2016 Tags:
goat flying from one tire to another
Aurora seems to have more agility than her twin brother.
Posted Thu May 26 14:56:22 2016 Tags:
Drying herbs

My little herb bed on the south-facing side of the trailer is doing beautifully this year. On the recommendation of one of our readers, I started some Greek oregano from seed last year and found to my delight that it did indeed have much more of the flavor I was looking for than the plain old oregano I'd grown before. Throw in some sage, lavender, thyme, chamomile, fennel, chives, and a few flowers and I have a pretty and delicious space right outside the back door.

Cooking with herbs

Being so close to the kitchen, the herb garden reminds me to pick a little flavor for meals that I might otherwise skip. I'm also air-drying a few of the more aromatic leaves while they're at their peak since last year's dried basil really hit the spot over the winter.

Mostly, though, I'm just enjoying the low-work, high-reward growing space. There's nothing quite like zone 0.5 homesteading projects that really work.

Posted Thu May 26 06:20:14 2016 Tags:
sweet corn risk

It was a risk planting this sweet corn on April 20th but I think we're in the clear.

Posted Wed May 25 15:02:06 2016 Tags:
Queen cells

I hate to admit it, but I got a bit disheartened by our bees and ignored them for a solid month. The thing is, I actually lost track of how many swarms materialized and then flew away, never to be seen again. (Four, I think?) It was pretty amazing when I was watching Artemesia and family graze in the oats and a mass of bees came flying just over our heads, a few landing on the trailer roof before leaping back into the air. But my rational side knows that each absent swarm is that much less chance of homegrown honey this year.

I seem to use lots of 20/20 hindsight with the bees, but here's a little more. When I opened up our swarming hive in April, I saw lots of queen cells at the bottom of the warre box. I cut off one...then got all worried. If the old matriarch left and I removed all the queen cells, will the new hive perish? So I left the rest in place. As you can see in the image above, though, there were many more queen cells than were really necessary, the likely source of so many afterswarms.

The other hive did swarm too, though. That one had fewer queen cells in it (two or three, I think), probably because there wasn't the gap between warre and langstroth boxes that my converter top created. Honestly, I think that feeding warre hives in the spring just makes them swarm. So if I want to bulk up the hives early in search of honey, I need to hurry up and get those bees back into langstroth boxes so I can checkerboard and use other swarm prevention techniques. (Warre frames just aren't movable enough to use techniques like this with success.)

HoneybeesOn the plus side, the hive that swarmed several times has capped brood and is bringing in lots of pollen. So, fingers crossed that their new queen will finally start laying eggs in the langstroth boxes and I can remove the warre box to complete the conversaion. The other hive swarmed a bit later and is all warre (so harder to tell what's going on inside). But they've got a good bit of honey and will hopefully have new workers soon.

And, all things considered, I don't regret being so engrossed in Artemesia's kidding and in the twins' early childhood that I missed a heaping handful of swarms. If I could go back in time, even knowing what I know now, I'd do it all over again. But maybe next year the two events won't coincide and I'll be a little smarter about early spring bee management. And, who knows, it could still be such a good nectar year that we get honey. Hope springs eternal....

Posted Wed May 25 06:56:36 2016 Tags:
mark Flex Seal
flex seal sealing a trash can lid

I'm trying some Flex Seal to see how long it will keep our new trash can dry.

Posted Tue May 24 15:28:44 2016 Tags:
Strawberry leather

Strawberries are my favorite fruit and fruit is my favorite food group. So you'd think I'd be tempted by out-of-season berries at the grocery store.

The trouble is, homegrown strawberries are so good I now turn up my nose at even the offerings from the local berry farm. Instead, we gorge on delicious red fruits for one month out of the year and we dry a little bit of leather for winter treats.

Since writing that linked-to post, we upgraded to an
Excalibur dehydrator to make it more feasible to dry food in our wet climate. But, otherwise, our method of storing summer sunlight is very much the same.

Posted Tue May 24 07:01:08 2016 Tags:

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