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Smallest wood stoves

How many batteries do I need for my solar panels?

Wood stove in a mobile home

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Refrigerator root cellar chimney cap

Dec 2013

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Holiday decorations for small spaces

Single glazed

Venison stew with dumplings

Watermelon Summer

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St Paul Falls overlook
We hiked the St Paul Falls overlook trail this afternoon for Anna's Birthday.
Posted Thu Dec 18 16:59:36 2014 Tags:
Book giveaway

It's time for me to make a little extra space on my shelves...which means one lucky reader is going to have a very special Christmas present show up in their mailbox next week. The seven books and one DVD below have a value of $166, and if you enter this week's giveaway, you can win all eight:

In exchange, I hope you'll help me plug this week's sale --- I've marked the two books in my Permaculture Gardener series (Homegrown Humus and The Naturally Bug-Free Garden) down to 99 cents apiece this week. I'd like to move a lot of copies so the books move up the rankings and are more visible to folks unwrapping kindles this Christmas, so any word-spreading you do would be much appreciated.

Here's the giveaway widget --- thanks in advance for joining in the fun!

Posted Thu Dec 18 07:00:23 2014 Tags:
Lucy and the Chipmunks
Alvin will not be making it home for Christmas this year.
Posted Wed Dec 17 15:08:23 2014 Tags:
Apple roots

The so-called forest garden is now officially defunct. Due to extremely high groundwater (and some vole damage last winter), all three of the apple trees living there had died way back over the past summer, so Mark wiggled and wiggled and then ripped them out by the roots. Only one even had enough root mass left to make it seem worth trying to replant somewhere else, where the ground is more dependably dry.

Paring down an apple tree

Mark suggested planting the moved tree about eight inches deeper than it had been originally, which means the plant might root above the graft union. If so, I hope that I'll still be able to use my high-density training techniques to keep the tree relatively small.

In the meantime, we also did some drastic pruning to make the branch area more in keeping with the root area. This is very much an experimental tree, so it won't break my heart if it doesn't recover from the transplant shock and drastic pruning, but perhaps the tree will get its feet back under it in this better soil and will try once again to grow.

Digging raised beds

So, what's to become of the defunct forest garden? As I've mentioned off and on over the last six months, I'm busy mounding the area up into long raised beds for annual vegetables (and for hazels, which seem to be the only woody perennial that thrives in our waterlogged soil). The good news is that after years of hugelkultur, the soil is black and rich in many spots, so as long as I can get plants' roots up out of the underground ocean, perhaps this zone will turn into a prime growing spot after all. The big test will be tomatoes in 2015. Stay tuned for more details on drainage patterns (this winter) and on plant growth (next summer).

Posted Wed Dec 17 08:24:53 2014 Tags:

Anna found a meal sized Oyster mushroom on one of our old totems this morning.

We used the Excalibur to dry it out and went a little too dry.

In the future we'll make sure to check the drying progress every 30 minutes.

Posted Tue Dec 16 15:57:44 2014 Tags:

"So, is Abigail pregnant?" Mom asked during my pre-birthday bash. I had to admit that I didn't really know. Some goats begin to show a bit on their right side (opposite the rumen) by the beginning of their fourth month of pregnancy, but others pop out kids without putting on any apparent weight at all. Still other goats have bellies so tremendous you'd think they were pregnant with quintuplets...but they never give birth because all that mass is just digesting hay.

My urine test said Abigail wasn't pregnant, but I didn't really believe it. Short of taking a blood test or finding an ultrasound machine, was there a more definitive way to find out whether Abigail had been properly bred?

Goat butts

"You could also try the pooch test," reader Sheree Clopton suggested. And thus began my obsession with peering up under Abigail's tail.

If your goat is pregnant, by two to three months after breeding, her anus (the hole on top) should be dropping down further away from her tail while her vulva (the pointy thing at the bottom) should become more elongated and tear-drop shaped. The trouble is that I hadn't take a before photo right when Abigail came to stay with us (because who really takes a closeup of their goat's butt during an introductory photo shoot?). And the test depends on deciphering individualistic changes in your goat's unique hind end. So I still don't have a definitive answer, although I think that perhaps Abigail's anus has dropped some over the last five weeks.

Goat eating honeysuckle

Grazing goatsOne way to be sure that milk is in our near future would be to go ahead and breed Artemesia, who is six months old and thus mature enough to get pregnant by some folks' standards. However, I've read lots of horror stories about breeding dwarf doelings on the young side, so Mark and I decided that it's probably safer to let Artemesia keep growing for a while, breeding her in the spring if she comes into heat then (which some Nigerian dwarfs do), or just waiting until next fall if necessary. Either way, I'll be sure to take some closeups before the breeding next time...just in case.

In the meantime, I'd love to hear from some goat gynecologists. Do you think Abigail is pregnant from the photos in this post?

Posted Tue Dec 16 07:50:41 2014 Tags:
Wood shed roof repair

I think we got our wood shed roof fixed for good today.

Our next wood shed will have a metal roof.

Posted Mon Dec 15 15:47:49 2014 Tags:
Christmas ball

Wooden ornamentI'm still feeling my way through Christmas decorations for our trailer. On the one hand, it's very easy to go overboard and turn decorations into clutter in such a small space. On the other hand, when the days are so short and gray, lights and greenery are much appreciated.

Last year, I went with a homemade garland above our table, which smelled good and looked pretty...but started dropping needles awfully quickly. This year, I changed gears a bit, keeping the lights (which we added to the garland after I made the post linked to above), and adding the bare minimum of ornaments. Mom let me go through our childhood Christmas box and pull out some ancient wooden ornaments and glass balls, which definitely make me smile every time I look at them, both because they're pretty and because they remind me of long-ago trees.

I'm curious to hear from others who like holiday decorations but live in a small space. What's your favorite nod toward the winter season?

Posted Mon Dec 15 08:13:38 2014 Tags:

testing out the new Bounty Hunter TK4 metal detector
2014 is the year I finally talked Anna into a metal detector.

On the list of things I want to find is an old chain we lost in the weeds and a small bolt for the rear prop shaft on the ATV.

We got the Bounty Hunter TK4, and it seems to be good at weeding out the junk if you know how to listen for the right kind of tone. Picking better target rich terrain might be another skill we need to learn, but I can already tell it's the kind of activity that's more fun with two people. Anna likes to do the digging while I do the scanning.

Posted Sun Dec 14 15:26:27 2014 Tags:
Feeding a goat
"I noticed you referred to taking/leading your goats into the woods. How do you get your goats to follow? Do you have very many? I have twelve. They do not always follow...even with a bucket of food. I want to rotate them on pasture, but for their safety, we have to pen them at night (coyotes, neighboring dogs, etc.). Let's just say, I have 8 children and when we try to get them into the pasture/pen it can be quite the prospect for America's Funniest Home Video. I would love to know if you have a trick."
--- K Hill

The first thing I taught Abigail was how to walk on a leash. This involved a bit of pulling, but mostly holding grain in my hand just out of nose reach each time she stopped moving. Goats are smart. Soon, Abigail was nearly as well leash-trained as Lucy is (although our goat gets much more recalcitrant when she knows I'm about to lock her back in her boring pasture).

My guess would be that, if you can figure out who the lead goat is, leash training that goat might do the trick. But I've obviously never worked with a dozen goats. And Artemesia is willing to trot along at my heels whether or not Abigail is on the leash --- I think she was a bottle baby, and she adores humans.

Pair of goats
Unlike Artemesia, Abigail has a mind of her own, but I can usually get her to obey by using goat psychology. Lately, I've been taking Abigail out into the woods san leash, which works well because she knows I'm going to lead her to something tasty, and because she hates being left behind alone. (Artemesia, if giving the choice, follows me rather than Abigail.)

The trouble comes when we return to the coop, since Abigail would far rather keep exploring the woods rather than get shut back up. If I'm in a hurry, I'll snap on a leash to make sure Abigail doesn't get her panties in a twist about the end of walktime, but I'm also working on training her to behave there too. My method involves taking Artemesia off somewhere so that Abigail can't see us, then Abigail freaks out, thinking she's been abandoned by her entire herd, and she starts sticking much closer to my heels in the future.

That method isn't foolproof yet, though --- the last time Abigail came galloping down off the hill with me and Artemesia...and then ran right past us to a new patch of honeysuckle within sight line of the coop. She figured she could graze, Artemesia could get shut in, and we'd all be happy. So I've got a bit more work ahead of me there.

I'd be curious to hear from others who have worked with bigger goat herds than I have. Do you have tips for getting your goats to follow where you lead?

Posted Sun Dec 14 08:16:40 2014 Tags:

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