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

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Jan 2015

Most visited this week:

How many batteries do I need for my solar panels?

Smallest wood stoves

How to start a no-till garden from scratch

Water tower strength for an IBC tank

Wood stove in a mobile home

Jan 2014

A year ago this week:

Storage apples

Lollipops, Garlic, and Basement Salamanders

Making a fence taller

Assessing dead trees for firewood

Backup power for the modem

Jan 2013

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kidding stall hardware fence barrier

We got the fence portion of our kidding stall finished today.

Posted Fri Jan 30 15:46:23 2015 Tags:

Red maple flowerHave any of you planted super-sweet sugar maples? Apparently, a scientist went around and tested the sugar levels in the sap of a lot of maples, gathered seeds from the sweetest individuals, tested the sap of those seedlings, then cloned the ones that showed the most potential. Unfortunately, Forest Keeling is the only definitive source I've found for the super-sweet sugar maples, and they don't sell to individuals online (although you can drop by their garden center if you live in Missouri). On the internet, the Improved Sugar Maples at Garden Delights may or may not be the same type of sugar maple, and there are also supposedly high-sugar Silver Maples available from St. Lawrence Nurseries (although the price tag for the latter gave me a bit of a shock).

I'm leaning more and more toward just planting locally-adapted seedlings out of my own woods after checking out those prices, but Dave Marshall's comment about tapping silver maples did make me wonder whether these wet-loving, fast-growing maples might be a better choice for our farm. Of course, if we're going in that direction, maybe we should just tap our ubiquitous box elder. Has anyone tried syrup-making from these less-popular maple species? I know you'd have to cook the sap down further and be more careful not to collect buddy sap, but what I'd really like to know is --- what did you think of the flavor? I guess we really should just tap a box elder and see for ourselves!

Posted Fri Jan 30 07:34:55 2015 Tags:
goat divider construction

We made some modifications to the Star Plate goat barn today.

Once it's finished we'll be able to manage the future baby goats better.

Posted Thu Jan 29 15:45:57 2015 Tags:
Goat in wheelbarrow
"I must say, you've made selling my girlfriend on the benefits of having a small farm both easier, and more difficult. She is obsessed with having goats, and when she found out that they're about the only thing that eats Japanese honeysuckle and kudzu, she seized on that as her justification for having a couple, 'since you wanted a farm anyway.' You've been absolutely no help at all in that battle, what with all the pictures of your ridiculously cute and well-behaved goats. Couldn't you vilify them just a *little*? I dunno, maybe make a post saying how they broke out and committed arson or something?

"Otherwise, I swear, I'm going to come home from work one of these days and there's going to be a goat in my apartment..."

--- Dave

Blue-eyed goatWell, Dave, let me tell you about how Artemesia broke out this week and committed arson....

Okay, maybe she really just jumped up into the wheelbarrow while I was cleaning out the coop and ensured that her picture would be found in the next edition of the dictionary under "adorable."

More seriously, I have to admit that after four months with goats, I wouldn't recommend them for 90% of homesteaders. Artemesia is like a delightful hybrid between a loyal dog and a rainbow, but I'd feel terribly guilty if I didn't give our goats at least half an hour of attention per day.

And boy do they eat! We're currently giving our duo lots of hay and are letting them graze down several decades' worth of honeysuckle, but we'll be scrambling pretty hard this summer to get enough pasture areas established to ensure that Gardening with a goatour goats don't eat us out of house and home. And I'll also be putting more effort into gardening so we can grow enough fodder crops to make up for the honeysuckle, which won't be here next year if our goats' current appetites are any indication.

Then there's the expense. We actually haven't had any real escapes, but that's because we're paying top dollar by fencing with cattle panels (and because we chose half-miniature goats and keep them quite happy). That makes goats a very pricey endeavor (although the fencing should last for a lifetime and can be used with any other livestock we end up acquiring). Yes, you can fence with cheaper materials...but I suspect I'd love Artemesia much less if she ended up gnawing on my dwarf apple trees.

Goat with pitchfork

I lobbied hard for goats nearly from the beginning, and even though I pouted at the time when Mark said no, I can see now that we weren't ready for goats until the last year or two. A new homestead is a huge time- and money-sink, and we just wouldn't have had the ability to truly enjoy goats at that time. So, I have to admit that I'm probably on Dave's side on this issue and would recommend that he and his girlfriend not get goats quite yet.

On the other hand, if you don't want any goats in your apartment, you might want to pry the computer out of your girlfriend's hands right now. Because once Abigail's kids show up, the goat pictures are going to get even cuter.... You've been warned!

Posted Thu Jan 29 07:44:58 2015 Tags:
hay shortage

Do you guys make your own hay? --- Alice

No, but we plan to plant more oats and Sunflowers this year.

A few Feed Stores around us have already run out of hay so I had to drive all the way to Abingdon to get these 9 bales.

Posted Wed Jan 28 16:22:20 2015 Tags:
Goat soap

People keep giving me soap. Do you think it's a hint?

Happy goatsMore seriously, Donna and Jessica from Happy Goats Soap Company recently sent us a sampler pack of their homemade products to try out. I'm a hard woman to please when it comes to beauty products since I don't like scented anything, but the duo came through with a special-order bar of unscented soap (which you can buy on their website by clicking the "Request Special Order" button). The soap does the trick, providing a good lather but washing off clean while also providing the gentle moisturizing action that goat-milk soap is known for.

Although mildly scented, I also immediately fell in love with their Minty Man No Shine Lip Salve. I once had an awesome tube of lip balm from Aveeno, but everything I've tried to replace it with (primarily Burt's Bees) has turned my lips white and my husband off. Happy Goats' lip balm is even better than I recall the Aveeno stick being, providing an invisible coating that helps dry winter lips return to a happy state in short order.

Do you want to try your own Happy Goats skin-care products? Donna and Jessica have a bar of rose soap and a tube of lip balm with one lucky reader's name on it. Enter the giveaway below to win!

Posted Wed Jan 28 08:02:16 2015 Tags:

plastic shed for storing hay
How many bales of hay can our little plastic shed hold?

We figure 9 with some space on top.

I think I might add some hinges to one of the doors that got a little wonky when the shed shifted.

Posted Tue Jan 27 15:44:46 2015 Tags:

Farmstead Feast: WinterOkay, so I could tease you with tantalizing tidbits from my newest ebook. I could tell you that it's got recipes that will help you tenderize the tougher cuts of pastured meat and to substitute wholesome vegetables for grains in delicious recipes.

Or I could just set the book free for one day only so you can pick up your own copy and give it a read. (And, maybe, if you want to make my day a little brighter, you'll leave a review on Amazon or Goodreads when you're done.)

Hmm, that second option sounds better for everybody involved. So, go download right now while it's free! Enjoy!

Posted Tue Jan 27 07:53:05 2015 Tags:
Jump starting

Our old farm truck is still limping along. Five months in the swamp and getting yanked out by a tractor necessitated repairing the gas tank and putting the universal joint back in after it fell out.

But we're still suffering from a short that drains the battery after a few days of disuse. That wouldn't be so bad if the hood latch didn't stick and require four hands every time we needed to open it.

Our mechanic repaired the sticking hood latch, but was left scratching his head over the short. I think I'll install a switch on the battery so I can turn it off when not in use.

Posted Mon Jan 26 14:57:35 2015 Tags:

Grazing goatsWhat's the best use for seedy manure? As I drooled over the combination of straw, dropped weedy hay, and goat manure and urine in our goat coop, these are the options I came up with:

  • Try to get a compost pile hot enough to kill all of the seeds in the goats' dropped hay. Pro: Much-needed compost for the vegetable garden. Con: Loss of a lot of nitrogen due to the contents sitting out in our rainy climate, plus a relatively long wait and quite a bit of pile-turning. And, to be honest, I don't really believe I'd kill all the seeds despite all the effort.
  • Turn in the chickens and hope they scratch through and eat up all the seeds. Pro: Maybe the compost would be weed-free enough for the garden afterwards, and the chickens would enjoy the adventure. Con: I'd either have to move all of the bedding from the goat coop to the chicken coop (at opposite ends of our core homestead), or I'd have to move the chickens to the bedding and hope our birds get along well with the goats. And, once again, I don't really believe the result would be weed-free.
  • Mangel definitionPut the weedy compost under a kill mulch. Pro: A very easy solution, and I do want to kill mulch a few new areas this spring. Con: I won't be getting compost where it's needed most --- in the main garden.
  • Deposit the kill mulch as a thin layer in the tree alleys, then use chickens to scratch up any sprouting seeds so I can plant goat-fodder crops there in the summer. Pros: This solution is even easier than the last since the bedding would be used close to the source, and I wouldn't even need masses of cardboard to cover everything over. Con: The chickens might not kill all the weed seeds, meaning that the area would stay unplantable (but would get some much-needed nutrition).

At the moment, I'm leaning toward the last option, especially since the whole point of my new kill mulches this spring was going to be to make some spots for the mangels and field corn I want to plant for next winter's goat feed. But I'm open to suggestions. What would you do with a mixture of straw, dropped hay, and goat urine and manure? I feel so rich having another source of organic matter to deposit into our farm's ecosystem!

Posted Mon Jan 26 07:40:46 2015 Tags:

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