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Fighting tomato blight with pennies

Moth pupa in the soil

How to help chicks during hatching

How many batteries do I need for my solar panels?

Building a bee waterer


May 2014
S M T W T F S
       


A year ago this week:

16 gauge Winchester

Pour and store

Uses for empty feed bags

Rooting hardy kiwis

May 2013
S M T W T F S
     
 


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Planting persimmon seedlingsI set out ten persimmon seedlings in our chicken pastures 2.5 years ago, figuring there were all kinds of experimental possibilities for the young trees. Option 1 would be to simply let them grow up to adult size, but a seedling persimmon has a 50/50 chance of being male (meaning no fruit), grows very large, and takes a long time to bear. Option 2 (my favorite at that time) was to graft hardy Asian persimmons onto the seedling rootstocks...but my hardy persimmon varieties kept dying back to the ground over the winter, so I decided to ditch that plan. Instead, I moved on to option 3 --- to trade for named American persimmon varieties (Yates, Proc, I-94, and Early Golden) and graft those onto my seedling rootstocks.

Overgrown persimmon seedling

Persimmons are trickier than some other fruits to graft, so I tried two different approaches. I also followed the experts' advice by waiting until it seems far too late to graft --- late May when the leaves on the seedling trees were nearly fully formed.

The first step for both methods, though, was the same --- yank out the weeds that had grown up within each tree's enclosure since the last time I dropped by. Out in the chicken pastures, these little trees are lucky to catch my eye more than once a year, so I wasn't surprised to find that two of my seedlings had died and that one wasn't big enough to graft onto. The rest --- despite being a bit winter-nipped from our -22 Fahrenheit cold spell --- had stems thick enough to graft onto.


Whip grafted persimmon

Whip-grafting persimmonI grafted the first four plants before doing any research, so they got my usual whip-and-tongue graft. It was definitely tougher to graft in situ than to bench graft, and both the rootstock and scionwood were on the small side (compared to apples) for most of the trees, so I'm not sure how many will take.

After I was done grafting, I still wasn't entirely sure what to do with the existing growth on the trees. So I just cut the branches back but left some leaves present to keep the tree alive until the graft union heals. Again, I'm not sure if this was the best choice, or whether the existing growth will prevent the graft union from healing. I guess time will tell....


Bark-grafting persimmon

Parafilm on graftWhile I took a water break in front of the computer, I found this interesting file suggesting an alternative method of grafting persimmons, so I followed the author's lead for my last three trees. First, I snipped the entire top off each seedling, then I slit a strip of bark and peeled it down (carefully!) before cutting away a bit of the rootstock to make room for another stick of wood to fit in.

Next, it was time to prepare the scionwood by cutting one side of the bottom at a slant and then using the knife blade to scrape the bark on the rest of the bottom of the scionwood down to the green cambium. The prepared scionwood slid under the rootstock's bark flap, and the whole thing was wrapped with parafilm. (Okay, I didn't wrap my entire piece of scionwood since that just seemed too extreme, but I may regret that omission!)

With seven trees grafted to four varieties, I'm hopeful I'll see at least a 50% success rate and will end up with several different types of persimmons to continue their slow growth in the chicken pastures. Since the trees there don't get much TLC, chances are I won't see fruit until 2020, but hopefully the results will be worth the (very little) effort I've so far put into my experimental trees.

Posted Tue May 26 07:17:34 2015 Tags:
using JB weld to repair Anna's sandals

One of the Teva sandals I glued for Anna last year came apart.

I used JB Weld again because the other sandal is holding up nicely.

The plan is to use some Plumbers Goop to seal up the edges to keep any water or dirt from finding a way in.

Posted Mon May 25 16:00:04 2015 Tags:

Foxglove flowers



My young flower beds aren't quite to the stage where they stand up to distance shots, but the closeups are delightful.

Foxgloves from a family friend, chamomile because it reminds me of my mother (who enjoys the tea), columbine from another friend, borage (not quite blooming yet) because one of our blog readers suggested it as a high-quality feeder of native pollinators, some zinnias and nasturtiums (also not blooming yet) just because.

Every time I look at one of the plants, I smile!

Posted Mon May 25 07:04:19 2015 Tags:

Draining cheeseAfter some research and great input from our readers, I decided to make a few changes before repeating my neufchatel/chevre endeavor. First, even though the instructions called for two drops of liquid rennet in my half-gallon recipe, raw goat milk is notorious for not needing nearly as much thickening agent --- pure milk is just very alive. So this time around I backed off to one drop of rennet, looking for more of a soft cheese consistency instead of the more chewy cheese I ended up with last time.

I also decided to try to boost the flavor with a bit more buttermilk (three tablespoons instead of two) and a much longer culturing period (24 hours instead of 6, although I should mention that the weather was much cooler during round two). After that elongated culture period, there was quite a bit of clear whey on top of the curd, and the curd had also begun to pull away from the walls of the pot. This is all an effort to give the bacteria more time to work, since I suspect microbial byproducts are what gives soft cheese most of its flavor.

Finally, I drained the cheese the right way for four hours instead of squeezing out the whey, and I upped the salt to 0.75 teaspoons. The result? Nearly perfect! The salt was too much --- I'll be going back down to half a teaspoon next time around --- and I think the culturing period might have been just a hair on the long side as well. But the flavor was much more full-bodied than last time and the cheese felt much moister rather than dry and crumbly. Success!

Posted Sun May 24 07:21:39 2015 Tags:
magnet car puzzle

I saw a perpetual motion Youtube video recently that tickled my curiosity.

Anna was intrigued as well, so we ordered some pinewood derby wheels and a box of magnets to see if we could understand this puzzle a little better.

We had fun tinkering with it for a few evenings before we came to the conclusion that the video is a trick that uses gravity instead of magnetism to move the car.

Posted Sat May 23 13:44:19 2015 Tags:
stump cutting

Kayla's husband Andy helped us out with some firewood cutting yesterday.

He gave us 2 hours of aggressive tree cutting for only 50 dollars.

If you're within driving distance and need some trees cut leave a comment and we'll give him your number.

Posted Sat May 23 12:47:51 2015 Tags:
Talking goat

"I don't want to go out," Abigail said on Wednesday morning when I went to tether our little herd in the woods.

I was gobsmacked. Abigail not only always wants to go out, she wants to get to her fresh forage now, ASAP, hurry up, do you get the message?!

But I think the deer flies the day before got to be too much for her. We had a light rain in the morning, so I put the herd out later than usual. And when I went to bring the goats home, the pesky deer flies were buzzing in their loops so annoyingly that I was barely able to gather three goats before rushing for cover myself. I should have worn a hat...and I'm sure that, as a tethered goat, the deer flies were twice as annoying. (They do bite, but it's really the buzzing that drives you mad.)

Feeding tree leaves to goats

Goat eating black locust leavesSo I met Abigail in the middle. I tethered her out early, took her in a bit after lunch, then cut some locust boughs in the evening to top off her belly. No, Mark, I don't know what you're talking about when you say I spoil our goats....

More seriously, I do dream of eventually having large enough pastures so our goats can get all of their nutrition on their own schedule, retreating to the barn when necessary to beat the flies. In the interim, tree boughs seem to be a quick-and-easy solution for supplemental feeding when it doesn't make sense to bring the goats out into the woods to eat. Like tree hay...but for summer nutrition rather than winter feed.

Posted Sat May 23 07:08:02 2015 Tags:
mark Bad onions
bad onion close up

Some of our onions started sprouting and going bad on us.

This post is to remind me around next Mother's Day to delete any bad onions.

Posted Fri May 22 15:48:07 2015 Tags:
Cracked earth

The weather and I can be moody. After a crazy wet fall, winter, and spring, we started measuring precipitation in hundredths of an inch this month. A quarter of an inch of rain Thursday morning eased the earth's woes a little, but it took Mark's cheerful demeanor and calm problem solving to ease my own bad mood.

Pea flowers

You'd think I'd realize that I always get overwhelmed around the middle to the end of May. I keep a mood diary (who, me obsessive?) and this is the time of year when my homemade cheerfulness report card dips into Cs and Ds. All of the spring plantings need to be weeded, our chicks are growing out of the easy stage and require more frequent pasture changes, and learning goats has also added to my load this year.

The trouble is, I love the garden and chickens and goats. I just don't love it when a lengthy to-do list pulls me out of my slumber too early and I turn irritable and grumpy. Time to offload a few tasks.

Nursing buckling

Some chores are easy to spread around. I pull Mark off his normal tasks to help me for a morning in the garden, and together we move the chicks to a new bit of yard. After a lesson in goat tethering, we figure he can halve my chores there too.

But some headaches aren't lighter when carried on two sets of shoulders. For example --- Lamb Chop. At eleven weeks of age, our buckling is enormous, still nursing...and starting to get ornery. Artemesia went into her first clearly discernible heat this week, which suddenly made goat wrangling much more difficult. Between the screaming from the woods, Lamb Chop's need to mount our doeling in the middle of the garden, and the egg-laying snapping turtle guarding the path on the way home, I was glad Mark was along or I don't think I would have been able to get all three goats back into the pasture. So our buckling has a date with the local butcher (aka meat packing facility) in two weeks, and we'll just hope Lamb Chop manages to knock Artemesia up beforehand.

Garlic scapes and asparagus

Speaking of offloading, I've decided to let my Winter and Spring cookbooks stand alone for the moment. I had thought my book about living in a trailer would be my most controversial and criticism-inspiring text, but apparently our unusual food choices are much more divisive. Lacking the energy to push a product that the world isn't ready for, I'm moving on to one of the other creative projects that I always have waiting in the wings.

Decisions made and tasks offloaded, I step out into the garden and notice that the grass is green, the flowers are beautiful, and the garlic scapes are ready to eat. It's amazing what a shift in perspective will do to remind me that, despite temporary troubles, we're still living in paradise!

Posted Fri May 22 07:49:59 2015 Tags:
battery powered chainsaw chain replacement

Our Oregon battery powered chainsaw needed a new chain today.

The sharpening stone still had about 1/4 of its surface area left, but one close look at the teeth will tell you why it stopped cutting.

I like to flip the bar upside down when a new chain goes on to even out the wear on the little bar sprockets.

We are very happy with how much cutting we got done on the first chain.

Posted Thu May 21 15:48:35 2015 Tags:

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