Most visited this week:
Refrigerator root cellar step 1...dig
Refrigerator root cellar chimney cap
How many batteries do I need for my solar panels?
Moth pupa in the soil
Building a bee waterer
A year ago this week:
Late-blooming apple varieties
Nutritional benefits of maple syrup?
Cutting cattle panels
Chicken-proofing livestock panels
Walden Effect Facebook page
We tried adding Zestar to our
high density apple trees last year.
Whoever suggested that
Abigail wouldn't be as able to hold back her milk if I handmilked rather
than using the machine was right. I wasn't able to test the hypothesis
until I got my milking technique down, though.
accumulated so much book news that I have to take a break from my usual
garden geekery and goat obsession to share. I hope you don't mind this
We scraped enough chicken
dirt from the used
pallet chicken coop to fill multiple wheel barrows.
Our next garden-experiment-that-I-may-live-to-regret is solarization. I'm trying all of these experiments for my upcoming soil book,
but this one was also spurred on by my fall oats cover crop not dying
as expected. I suspect the uncharacteristic overwintering ability of the
oats came about because I grazed it repeatedly in the fall, which kept
the plants at a vegetative state rather than ever getting close to
flowering. No matter why
the oats survived, I was left with a conundrum --- how to turn that
area back into plantable ground without tilling up the oats or lots of
Solarization might be the
answer. The idea is that you prepare your beds (in my case by letting
Abigail eat the oats as low as she could and then begging Mark come in
with the weedwhacker to finish off the job), then you stretch a piece of
clear plastic tight over the ground to bake what's left behind.
Solarization only works during the sunny part of the year and can take
anywhere from one to three months to kill weeds and pests in the earth.
Of course, the biologist in me says --- what's to prevent solarization
from killing all of the beneficial soil microorganisms too? And, since
the plastic dropcloths often used for solarization aren't UV-stabilized,
will we end up having to pick plastic out of our soil when the
greenhouse layer disintegrates in the garden?
Mark always rolls his
eyes when I poke holes in techniques I haven't even tried, so I shrugged
and decided to give solarization a whirl. Worst-case scenario, we'll
have a biologically dead bed that I can perk back up with some
well-behaved cover crops and compost. Best-case scenario, we'll have a
bed ready to plant into in June with very little work on my part. Stay
tuned for more details as the experiment progresses!
We deleted 3 more peach trees and our thorn less Blackberries today.
We finally hooked up the temporary electric fencing
as a way of leaving the goats alone in the garden unattended. Okay, so I
sat with the herd for an hour first while Lamb Chop learned that the
fence bites (this took four tries and he finally ended up lying in the
middle of the temporary pasture with a very glum look on his
face). And even after that, I checked in every five minutes just in
case. But both Artemesia and Abigail came from electric-fence-friendly
households and gave the netting a wide berth. No need to re-up any
When Daddy "lent" us this
electric fence system, he included a solar charger. I'm no sure if the
battery had died in his charger while it had been sitting in his shed
for a few years or what, but we had no luck getting the solar charger to
work. A new plug-in charger
won't let us fence the goats as far afield, but it worked like a charm
(even though Mark had to test the wire with his fingers since our fence tester apparently doesn't work either).
The electric fence will definitely have a niche in our goat-grazing campaign, but I have to admit that I find tethering
simpler to set up and easier to manage. Sure, Lamb Chop can't nurse
while he's tethered, and it would be tougher to tether goats in areas
with high weeds or brush, but for grazing little corners of our core
homestead, the tethers seem to be the way to go. After all, I don't
trust our girls alone in the garden even with an electric shock standing
between them and my cabbages, so I might as well just let them graze
while I weed and keep my blood pressure low.
It feels a bit decadent to be trying out this store-bought mulch paper,
even though the price per square foot is comparable to the cost of
straw. On the up side, unlike other manufactured sheet mulches, this
paper is reputed to be fully biodegradable, so we won't have the issue
that black plastic causes, where you're picking your "mulch" out of the
soil for years to come. On the down side, the paper won't add nearly as
much organic matter to the soil as straw would, water penetration may or
may not be an issue, and I'm not sure how the paper will fare once the
areas beneath the weights begin to rot away. That's why we're only
experimenting on a small scale.
Of course, cardboard
mulch is much preferable to any kind of paper, especially amid the
perennials. The tree row above hasn't been weeded yet this year, but
it's looking pretty good regardless due to cardboard laid down last
fall. In a perfect world, I'd add mulch on top of the cardboard, but
during this stopgap year, I've instead taken to weighing down the paper
product with bits of prunings and other debris --- just enough to keep
the mulch from blowing away in our non-windy climate. Cardboard is
midway in carry-ability between the paper mulch and straw, the sticking
point there usually being sourcing the waste product.
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