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Smallest wood stoves

How many batteries do I need for my solar panels?

Wood stove in a mobile home

Propagating persimmons: Germinating seeds, grafting, and transplanting

Fighting tomato blight with pennies

Oct 2013

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Lion's mane mushroom

Why you might be better off without toothpaste

St. Paul Appalachian Heritage Fall Festival

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Oct 2012

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Celeste fig

The first figs on our Celeste bush started turning maroon a couple of weeks ago, and ever since I've been waiting with baited breath, hoping to taste a new fig variety.  Unfortunately, cool weather has slowed down ripening considerably, and the only summer plants that are still bearing like crazy are our red raspberries.  The Celeste fig seemed to be stuck halfway ripe.

Ripe and unripe figs

With another potential frost forecast, I decided to see if those Celeste figs were tasteable.  I plucked the fruits off the bush, cut them open...and was disappointed to see colorless flesh inside.  Unlike most fruits, the telling color-change on a ripening fig occurs hidden inside --- in the photo above, the fig on the left is a ripe Chicago Hardy fig for comparison.  I guess we'll have to wait until next year to taste a ripe Celeste fig!

In the meantime, I should note that despite last winter's cold killing our Chicago Hardy plant to the ground, we've still enjoyed perhaps a gallon of figs this year.  That harvest doesn't hold a candle to last year's bounty, but it's not bad for a tree that started from the ground up this spring!

Posted Mon Oct 20 07:52:58 2014 Tags:

goat gate latch barrel bolt

The new goat gate uses a Zinc coated 4 inch barrel bolt latch to keep our new girls in.

This pasture is connected to their Star Plate home, where they get tucked into every night before it gets dark.

Posted Sun Oct 19 14:34:21 2014 Tags:
Goats eating oats

When you start providing livestock with free-choice minerals, suddenly the options become a bit overwhelming.  We've narrowed our goats' selections down to:

  • Goat mineralsa pre-mixed goat mineral
  • kelp (for extra trace minerals)
  • table salt (iodized or noniodized is debatable.  We add the extra salt because we chose a mineral mix that's only 11% salt, but you should be aware that some people believe you shouldn't provide additional salt since it might prevent your goats from eating enough of the pre-mixed minerals.  If you do opt for additional salt, sea salt would be a better choice, although more expensive.)
  • baking soda (as a safety valve in case our goats' rumens get out of balance due to eating grain)

Some goat-keepers also provide:

  • Browsing goatnutritional yeast (aka brewer's yeast, for extra protein.  This is more often mixed with a processed feed that provided free choice, though.)
  • Diamond V XPC Yeast Culture (as a probiotic.  This is generally mixed with feed rather than being put out for free-choice eating.)
  • diatomaceous earth (for internal parasite control, although data suggests this may not actually do any good when taken internally)

And if you're worried about your soil being particularly deficient in one or two minerals, presumably you could provide those nutrients free choice as well if you weren't worried about overconsumption.  This last option might hypothetically help remineralize your soil...or you might just end up with a very healthy dog if your canine, like ours, runs along behind the goats to slurp up their "berries."

More cute goats
I'll close with two extra goat shots...because they're cute.  And getting fatter?

Posted Sun Oct 19 08:24:21 2014 Tags:
mark Fig height
documenting the height of our Chicago Hardy fig

How tall did our Chicago Hardy fig get this year?

Just shy of 10 feet, even after the hard frost it suffered last year.

The Celeste was almost half as high.

Posted Sat Oct 18 16:04:44 2014 Tags:
Hay field
Old house and pond
Logging road

A friend of a friend is selling some land about twenty minutes from our farm, and I promised to spread the word in case any of you were interested.  It's priced at a thousand bucks an acre and has a lot of potential, full of ponds, forested mountain-land, and open fields.  There's an electric hookup on site and spring water piped down to an old house, plus logging roads make for relatively easy access.  Here's the Craigslist ad for more information.

Livestock pond

At 177 acres, the property has the potential to be bought by several homesteaders and managed as an eco-village or education center.  Or, perhaps more realistically, if two or three homesteading families went in on the property together, you could share the land without anyone digging their financial hole too deep.  If you're interested in these shared options, leave a comment below and chat with each other --- it would make my day if several of our readers got together and relocated nearby!

Posted Sat Oct 18 07:50:12 2014 Tags:
mark Big headed
big headed sunflower plants harvested

Today was a good day to harvest sunflowers.

We planted so many that the birds only had a chance to nibble in a few spots.

Posted Fri Oct 17 15:44:50 2014 Tags:

Harvesting carrots in the rainLast year, I wrote that I dug our carrots early.  And this year...I dug them even sooner.  All this rain made a couple of my cabbage heads split over the weekend, and I know that carrots are prone to the same ailment.  I'd rather get those orange roots out of the ground before problems arise.  They probably wouldn't grow too much bigger over the next week or two anyway since many were already heftier than store-bought!

The downside of this fall's carrot harvest is that it's much smaller than in years past.  I dropped the ball and didn't replant after a dry spell caused sporadic carrot germination in July.  Then the straw I mulched with (which was supposed to be weed-free, since it was the second round from the feed store) sprouted scads of little grain plants.  As a result, carrots were getting lost in the sea of cover crops, and I opted to pull the vegetables out before they completely disappeared.

Of course, half a bushel of carrots is nothing to sneeze at.  And, if I'm honest, I would admit that I actually grew twice as many as we wanted last year --- Mark was getting heartily sick of carrot sticks before the winter ended.  Our fridge root cellar will keep the carrots we did grow this year crisp and sweet deep into the winter, and next year we'll plant many more to feed the goats.

Posted Fri Oct 17 07:24:41 2014 Tags:
crossing creek with hip waders

We shipped out 8 more heated bucket chicken waterers today.

The creek was just high enough to need proper neoprene hip waders.

Posted Thu Oct 16 16:22:50 2014 Tags:
Goat tractor
"So, basically, you have two weedcutters now?" --- Roland

You got it!  Cleaning up weedy edges has been one of the major selling points of goats, and I was excited (after the rain finally let up) to see how our girls would fare in that department.  To that end, I made a temporary pasture using six cattle panels, encircling a roughly 650-square-foot problem area.  This spot is where the old house used to stand, and where blackberry brambles and honeysuckle have since taken over the decaying wood.  Could Abigail and Artemesia help us with this thorny problem?

High weeds"Glad to!" they chorused.  The top photo shows the area a day and a half after goat action began, at which point I was already starting to be able to see wood rather than simply a huge thicket of weeds.  In contrast, the photo on the right is the before shot, taken moments after our goats were let into the pasture on their first day.  Our girls enjoyed the browse so much that I had to bribe them with a little sweet corn Tuesday evening before Abigail would let me put on her leash for the walk back to the starplate coop.  (I've learned that Artemesia doesn't need her own leash --- she just trips along behind.)

The bad news for those of you who are itching to go out and get goats is --- I don't think our girls are going to take the weeds down to the ground.  They're so good at carefully plucking the leaves off the stems that the blackberry brambles and honeysuckle vines are still left standing even after the girls are done eating.  Perhaps in the dead of winter, when pickings are slimmer, our goats will be more prone to do a total rehab on a weedy spot like this, but I suspect we'll instead be sending Mark in with the Swisher to bring this area back under human control.  I guess that's why we got two weedcutters, right?

Posted Thu Oct 16 07:50:44 2014 Tags:
mark Goat gate
new goat gate with Lucy

We finished our first goat gate today.

I used 2x2's for the frame to keep it light and treated furring strips for the slats.

Posted Wed Oct 15 16:23:26 2014 Tags:

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