The Walden Effect: Homesteading Year 5. Farming, simple living, permaculture, and invention.

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Apr 2015
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Wet grapes

At a certain point, the world is so wet that even Edgar doesn't want to go out and graze. So the herd calls in takeaway.
Blurry goats
"I'd like a spring leaf medley," Aurora told me. "Some elderberry, some pear prunings, a bit of willow, maybe a small side order of honeysuckle and buckeye."

"And make it snappy," Edgar added. Did I really hear him mutter "It's hard to find good help nowadays" under his breath?

Posted Mon Apr 24 07:18:22 2017 Tags:
Wheelchair chicken tractor water access.

I mounted a 5 gallon bucket EZ miser to the back of the wheelchair chicken tractor.

The weight helps to balance out the heavy nest box in front.

Posted Sun Apr 23 15:36:49 2017 Tags:
Roasting asparagus

On the sixth straight day of rain, the creek finally started to rise. The asparagus responded a few days earlier, beginning to provide whole meals of spears around day three. Tenacious weeds loosened their grip on the earth on day four. And on day five, trees and bushes sudden seemed twice as green.

Gotta love spring rains after a dry spell!

Posted Sun Apr 23 07:53:17 2017 Tags:
Small solar panel window mounting.

Anna's brother Joey has a discovered an easy way to mount a lightweight solar panel to the underside of his underground house.

Posted Sat Apr 22 14:55:34 2017 Tags:
Honda mower

Now that everyone's done drooling over Mark's new mower, I thought it might be helpful to share our thought processes in choosing the new tool. A homestead like ours, with grassy aisles between permanent garden beds covering a couple of acres, needs a mower small and nimble enough to dive into nooks and crannies...and preferably hefty enough to cut thick weeds and power up slick hills without burning out or breaking its handlers. Here are the mowers we've considered and/or tried.

Craftsman mowerThe Craftsman 917388571 was our farm's second mower (replacing an ancient mower that literally exploded one day when I asked it to do things mowers shouldn't be asked to do). What I loved about this mower: it ran with minimal upkeep for eight years after being purchased used and was easy enough for me to start until the final season. What we didn't like so much: pushing it up hills and around corners could wear you out, especially in the heat. Meanwhile, as the Craftsman aged it seemed to go through flywheel shaft keys and blades like candy despite there being fewer and fewer obstructions left in its path.

Swisher mowerIn fall 2014, I loosened the purse strings and we upgraded to a Swisher. Mark was hoping that the string cut would handle our rough terrain without so many flywheel problems and he also thought a self-propelled mower would make grass-cutting a breeze. I'll admit that I detested this mower from day one. The string flung blades of grass into my garden beds, requiring much more washing of our harvest (and making leaf lettuce completely unpalatable), and the string also resulted in a rougher cut that wasn't fun on bare feet. I couldn't start the machine either, so when it was my turn to mow I stuck with the Craftsman.

Troy-Bilt mowerOnce Mark gave up on the dream of the Swisher, we put our heads together and tried to figure out if there was a mower that would do what we each wanted. At first, we considered a Troy-Bilt WC33. The price tag was daunting, but such a hefty machine seemed like it might be a good idea, especially with the electric start, self-propulsion, and excellent reviews. But then I read deeper and realized that there was no way I could manage the beast with my moderate upper-body strength. Luckily, Mark was willing to compromise.

Self-propelled mowerWe settled on the Honda HRX217K5VKA because it looked small enough for me to maneuver and boasted the best reviews of any of the same-class mowers. After taking it for a test drive, I have to admit, I'm sold. The auto-choke, easy-start system almost seems like a magic trick --- I've never had a two-stroke engine that I could rev up without even feeling it in my yanking arm. The self-propulsion really makes a difference in our hilly terrain (yes, Mark was right about that), and at the same time the design makes it easy to go manual in extremely tight quarters.

Of course, to pay for itself, the Honda will need to last at least a decade. Here's hoping our new mower will go the distance!

Posted Sat Apr 22 07:30:05 2017 Tags:

Wheelchair chicken tractor day one.
The wheelchair chicken tractor chickens seem to like their new home.

They spent the morning testing any possible escape routes and settled down to happy grazing in the afternoon.

Posted Fri Apr 21 15:21:49 2017 Tags:
Potting up

What better gardening activity is there for a rainy day than potting up? I guess most people don't actually do the work in the rain....

Mixing potting soil

Even though I've changed my loyalties from stump dirt to storebought potting soil for the starting stage, I'm still content with homegrown options for potting up. Half stump dirt and half well-aged horse manure gives hungry plants plenty of nutrients while waiting for frost danger to pass. And, at this age, there's no worry left about damping off.

Posted Fri Apr 21 07:05:39 2017 Tags:
Honda 190 lawn mower day one.

The new Honda mower was easy to set up and even easier to start.

Anna got it going on the first pull with little effort.

The bigger wheels and extra power is a good match for our overgrown patches of weeds we like to call a lawn in between sections of the garden.

Posted Thu Apr 20 15:30:24 2017 Tags:
Developing gooseberries

When I moved the surviving blueberries and gooseberries downhill from the ultra-shady spot where they originally lived, I was a bit concerned that such mature bushes wouldn't survive being transplanted. So I pruned them harder than usual, removing perhaps a third of the top growth. Then I waited to see what would happen.

Blueberry blossoms

So far, so good. The plants old enough to bear fruit are indeed blooming copiously and the tender new leaves show no problems yet. It'll be awfully nice to have the fruit so close to the back door for daily picking, and I can already tell I'm going to get three times the pleasure despite cutting the planting size back by a factor of four. Now that's math I can get behind.

Posted Thu Apr 20 07:17:42 2017 Tags:
Honda lawn mower in the box.

After much research we decided to go with a Honda self propelled lawn mower.

We got it at Home Depot which started giving military discounts like Lowes.

Posted Wed Apr 19 15:28:53 2017 Tags:

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