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

archives for 02/2009

Feb 2009
Baby lettuceIt's been a month since the deer chomped on the last of our winter greens, and despite the tasty summer treats I pull out of the freezer I'm starting to crave fresh vegetables.  So I went out to peer into the cold frame which I planted with lettuce and spinach on October 29.

The salad greens were supposed to be big enough to eat in December, but some cold spells knocked them back.  Now they're starting to grow!  Still not quite big enough to eat, but both are starting to put out fresh leaves.  Maybe in a couple of weeks....

Baby spinachMeanwhile, I planted my traditional Groundhog's Day lettuce bed --- a couple of days early because even though the ground isn't what I'd call dry right now, it's only going to get wetter come Monday.  I've been curious about whether the southwestern Native Americans' method of pit gardening would be useful to give my salad greens a bit of insulation in the winter, so I made half of the new bed a pit garden and the other half a raised bed.  (Both are inside a cold frame covered with row cover fabric.)  In a couple of months, I'll let you know the results of the side by side comparison!
Posted Sun Feb 1 09:06:01 2009 Tags:

circular saw firewoodThe chainsaw is still having a power problem, which makes me wonder if I was wrong about having bad fuel in it last week?

Plan B is to use the miter saw to cut up some long and narrow pieces of walnut and box elder we've had laying around.

Using the chainsaw on these smaller pieces has always seemed like overkill to me and often resulted in some odd angles you have to hold the saw in which sometimes leads to having your chain touch the dirt...which is a very bad thing and causes the cutting portions of the chain to not cut as well.

I was pleasantly surprised at how easy it is to line up and cut these tiny logs into a decent pile of firewood.

Posted Sun Feb 1 21:58:08 2009 Tags:
Growth of apple tree

I spent part of the afternoon Sunday training the fruit trees, tying branches to the ground to widen their angles from the trunk.  I also went ahead and pruned my apple trees, though it's only just barely late enough.  (I'm going to hold off on pruning the rest of the fruit trees until March.)

Actually, my apples hardly needed pruning.  I only have one good one --- the winesap shown here.  I bought it last April from Lowes, pruned it within an inch of its life so that its branches would match its roots, and then ignored it.  I didn't really believe it had grown, but when I took a look at the side by side comparison, it become clear that the winesap actually did quite well.  Maybe we'll have apples in a few years!
Posted Mon Feb 2 09:01:34 2009 Tags:

Tender Crops in Last

CabbageThe most tender crops, pole beans and limas, go in last while pepper plants and eggplant are set out.

At the very last I sow winter squash --- not more tender, really than the summer types which won't, however, be harvested until fall.  The small varieties are better for the backyard garden than Blue Hubbard, while the dark-green, heart-shaped Quality now rates higher with me than Butternut.  It was even more vigorous growing in last summer's drought than Butternut, and far more prolific.  The average fruit weighed 5 to 6 pounds, only one weighed 10, and it was just as disease-resistant.  Quality's chief virgue, however, is the marvelous flavor of its fine-grained flesh.  It can be eaten immature, skin and all.  Buttercup also has good flavor, but in my experience is more susceptible to disease and insect attacks.  I also plant a few hills of Small Sugar pumpkin whose flesh is not stringy, and which are good both for decoration and for pies.  Read more....

This post is part of our Planting for a Four Season Harvest lunchtime series.  Read all of the entries:

Posted Mon Feb 2 12:03:31 2009 Tags:

stihl 039 handle closeupThe chainsaw is once again ripping through logs like a hot knife cutting through butter.

It turns out I was on the right track with suspecting the fuel as the culprit. The key was in the symptom details. The engine sounded and felt like it does just before it runs out of gas.

The only thing I did to get it to work this time was bring the fuel canister in the trailer for a few hours before filling it up. I had been storing it outside, which seems to be the root of my problem. Maybe it has something to do with the oil and gas mixture? My conclusion is to just keep the can of mixed gas inside along with the chainsaw and everybody stays happy and warm.

Posted Mon Feb 2 16:40:45 2009 Tags:

The gardening season has begun!  I checked over my spreadsheet to plan out the month of February, and thought those of you in a similar zone might get something out of a rundown of the tasks:

  • February 2 --- plant lettuce and spinach in a cold frame.
  • February 14 ---
    • plant snow peas in the sunniest spot in the garden.  Shelling peas never seem to survive this early for me, and even the snow peas are a gamble (so don't plant all your seeds), but if they survive you'll have bragging rights at the feed store!
    • indoors or in a cold frame, start cabbage and broccoli.
  • Before the end of the month --- cut logs to innoculate with shitake spawn.  (But don't innoculate yet!)

Doesn't sound like much, I know, but it's exciting to be able to start growing again!  Keep in mind that this is for zone 6 --- your dates will vary slightly.

Posted Tue Feb 3 08:24:34 2009 Tags:

Harvesting in June Before Summer Has Begun

Garden at the beginning of JulyBy the calendar, summer has not yet begun.  What am I harvesting in June?  Not many things, but plenty of each kind.  Asparagus still, peas every day, also lettuce, radishes, beet and turnip greens, scallions, baby carrots.  One may tire of stored canned peas every day or store-bought asparagus, but garden-fresh vegetables keep the appetite from getting jaded.  In winter, I look forward to the June harvest --- which includes strawberries --- as the finest of the year.  Read more....

This post is part of our Planting for a Four Season Harvest lunchtime series.  Read all of the entries:

Posted Tue Feb 3 12:51:39 2009 Tags:

bee box and superA friend down the road offered to give us a bee box with a super box if we cleaned one up for him at the same time.

I don't know much about the art of bee keeping, but I know I like the taste of fresh honey and the idea of taking one more thing off the list that needs to be bought at the store or farmers market really makes it a worthwhile project.

Posted Tue Feb 3 17:44:15 2009 Tags:

Mid-Summer Plantings

Lettuce bedCertain plantings should be made in midsummer to provide more fresh food for late fall and, in some cases, even winter.  If the weather is hot and dry, be sure to water furrows and drills both before and after planting, and every day until seeds sprout.  Here's how I do it:
1---Beets --- soak seeds several hours before sowing;
2---Carrots --- plant all you have room for, perhaps on the early corn and bush bean sites;
4---Turnips --- varieties grown only for tops; Just Right has good top growth plus large white roots;
5---Lettuce --- one short sowing.  Read more....

This post is part of our Planting for a Four Season Harvest lunchtime series.  Read all of the entries:

Posted Wed Feb 4 12:27:53 2009 Tags:

winter collage
Today was a good day for slow drips of water who dream of being long and solid.

Posted Wed Feb 4 19:01:07 2009 Tags:

SnowBoy was that groundhog right.  I've always heard that snow grabs nitrogen out of the air, fertilizing the ground.  But is it really true?  A search of the internet turned up these interesting facts....

...snow and rain probably deposit the same amount of nitrogen.  So, rain is the poor man's fertilizer too.

...the amount of nitrogen deposited by rain or snow doesn't depend on the number of inches of precipitation.  In fact, one study showed that as the amount of precipitation increased, the concentration of nitrogen in that precipitation decreased.  In other words, rain or snow washes the nitrogen out of the air --- if it keeps raining or snowing after a certain point, the available nitrogen up there gets depleted.

So I guess I'll just have to enjoy the beauty of snow and not count on masses of fertilizer!

Posted Thu Feb 5 08:39:42 2009 Tags:

Crops Withstand Light Frosts

Many crops are not affected by light frosts.  Someone once remarked in mid-October how full my garden still was of green, growing things although all annual flowers were blackened.  Beet and carrot tops, also parsley, were more luxuriant than in summer, while lettuce, Chinese cabbage and fennel were thriving in the cool weather.  Broccoli started the March before in the house, and set out in April had doubled in diameter since it first matured back in July, and was sprouting all over with side shoots.  Read more....

Mulched garden

This post is part of our Planting for a Four Season Harvest lunchtime series.  Read all of the entries:

Posted Thu Feb 5 12:31:12 2009 Tags:

The sun was out for a few hours today proving that winter is slowly losing its grip on us.

heavy cart
This seems to be the maximum load I can get the golf cart to pull all the way up our hill.

Posted Thu Feb 5 18:27:43 2009 Tags:
Anna Recovering

Turkey feathers in the snowLest you think the simple life is all farm fresh eggs and sunny afternoons, I have to admit there are darker days.  I whipped up some tuna salad on Tuesday which really didn't agree with us --- in fact, it disagreed with me so much that I ended up throwing up at 3 am in the snow.  And at 4 am.  And at 10 am.  And at noon.

Mark was less visibly affected, though still weakened by the bad fish.  He was able to keep the fire going while all I was able to do was pull on my coat for the endless treks outside.  Thursday, we were each a bit perkier --- I made it to the sofa instead of spending all day in bed, and Mark even managed to go get some fresh wood.  But we're both a bit under the weather, which is why my posts have been a bit low on details.  I figured you really don't want a photo of Lucy excitedly licking up frozen vomit....

Even on the darkest days, though, the simple life doesn't lose its appeal.  Sure, I haven't quite gotten up the strength to heat wash water to bathe with, but I had two warm cats on my chest Thursday morning who seem to have imbued me with their energy.  It's nice to know that all we really need is someone able-bodied enough to keep the home fires burning and feed the animals --- everything else is optional.

Posted Fri Feb 6 08:57:03 2009 Tags:

Winter-Harvesting Crops

KaleSome few crops not only survive, but can be harvested all winter.  Parsnips taste sweeter after a frost, and I've dug up well-preserved carrots in March on the same day I was planting peas, using them before the weather warmed up.  Egyptian or other perennial bunching onions are the only year-round vegetable I know of in the North which can be used fresh almost every day.  In winter I use the lower white portions of the stalks --- there is not much green growth then --- chopping them into salads, or flavoring meat dishes and soups.  Leeks, so highly esteemed by gourmets for their delicate onion flavor, taste best when matured.  Frozen leeks thaw out perfectly, and a full-grown specimen makes two servings.  Read more....

This post is part of our Planting for a Four Season Harvest lunchtime series.  Read all of the entries:

Posted Fri Feb 6 11:43:50 2009 Tags:

Lucy sunset 2009
The melting of snow goes along nicely with late winter sunsets.

Posted Fri Feb 6 18:52:49 2009 Tags:

The Good Life
The Good Life: Helen and Scott Nearing's Sixty Years of Self-Sufficient Living --- if you like our website, you should go read this book because it's the real deal.  It took me weeks to figure out what I loved about it, and then it came to me.  Of course --- they lived my dream, and didn't start watering it down as they grew older.  They just kept living it until Scott died at the ripe old age of 100.

Actually, he committed suicide through a six week fast, which doesn't sound quite like the good life to me.  Other parts of their book also put me off --- I can understand being a vegan, but I think it's harsh to call house cats slaves.  Read more....

Posted Sat Feb 7 08:58:08 2009 Tags:

A sizable chunk of winter melted off today revealing some familiar colors.

I got the picture to the left by inverting the panoramic feature on the Fuji Finepix S1000fd.

Someone mentioned that it was Charles Dickens' birthday today, which should be celebrated by drinking a warm cup of tea or hot chocolate with someone and sharing which one of his characters you identify with most and why.

c Dickenes

Posted Sat Feb 7 20:06:15 2009 Tags:

Bee boxSaturday afternoon was astonishingly beautiful.  The sun pounded down and melted the snow until I had to go outside.

I ended up cleaning up the bee box, scraping off old wax then scrubbing it down in a washtub of lightly bleachy water.  Many people recommend scorching the old boxes with a blow torch before reusing them, but I think I might stick to this simpler method and hope I'm not carrying over any diseases.

The old hive smelled of bee --- honey, beeswax, and sun-warmed wood.  I put the finished product (minus the exterior lid, which Mark will build later) on cinderblocks at the edge of the yard.  I figure we have a month or two before we can add bees, and I want to spend some time moving the box around to find the perfect spot --- not in any direct human paths, but not out of sight; catching the early morning sun, but a bit protected by late afternoon shade.  I also want to give us some time to get used to the idea of bees on the farm.  While I mused, I took my first outdoor bath of 2009 --- joy and rapture!

Posted Sun Feb 8 08:15:42 2009 Tags:

2009 window collage
These 7 windows have been salvaged from an old high school and with a little luck will be part of our future experiment in making a small green house.

Posted Sun Feb 8 19:03:49 2009 Tags:

Experimental bedsI've been reading Harvey Ussery's permaculture articles in both Mother Earth News and Backyard Poultry Magazine with glee, and this article about creating a forest garden really caught my fancy.  I detest wasted space, and about half of our growing space right now feels wasted to me --- it's open, weedy areas between young fruit trees.

I've planted vegetables and berries between the trees in one half of the young orchard, but the other half has soil so terrible that I figure by the time I get it enriched enough to grow anything worthwhile, the trees will have closed in over my beds.  The area is also chock full of Japanese Honeysuckle and wild blackberries, making it difficult to grow anything.

Sunday afternoon I got a bee in my bonnet and decided to experiment in that awful soil area.  I'm trying three different methods (which you can see above.)  Read about the three beds....

Posted Mon Feb 9 07:46:08 2009 Tags:

With all of the snow we've been getting this winter, I thought now might be a good time to talk about one of my favorite snowy activities --- tracking.  I've decided to call this lunchtime series "Farm Tracking 101" because I'll cover all of the basics you need to tell your chicken tracks from your dog tracks and to figure out who's been nosing around your chicken coop.  I'll mention my favorite books and tools later, but for now, let's dive right in!

Take a look at the two photos below.  Yup, I've intentionally made them too small to tease apart the shape of individual tracks.  But you can probably tell they're made by two different animals, right?  Read more...

Bounding and walking tracks

This post is part of our Farm Tracking 101 lunchtime series.  Read all of the entries:

Posted Mon Feb 9 12:31:15 2009 Tags:

treeToday was a good day for cutting down trees.

It's that time of year when fresh sycamore logs are needed for shitake mushroom inoculation.

Some folks use oak trees, but we had excellent luck last year using sycamore.

The two medium sized trees came down with no troubles, and I thank them for their sacrifice. Anna had me leave a taller than normal stump to encourage new sycamores to sprout out in the future.

We got them cut up into three foot sections and hauled to the kiddie pool area where they are patiently waiting for the next step.

Posted Mon Feb 9 18:33:54 2009 Tags:

Full moon on the farmI've felt so alive ever since I recovered from my bout of food poisoning.  The world seems brighter, clearer...and I want to post constantly.  Bear with me.  I'm sure I'll get jaded soon. :-)

Tonight is the full moon and I couldn't resist sharing a few of my first night photos.  I haven't quite figured out all the settings on the camera, but the photos turned out interesting nonetheless.
Full moon on the farm
Earlier (in daylight), I watched a Song Sparrow muddle through its first song of the spring as it perched on a fencepost.  The bird seemed a bit confused, leaving out the distinctive first three notes and settling into the warbling part with vigor.  The cats even got into the spring weather, begging to be let out repeatedly.  No couch sitters on the farm today!

Posted Mon Feb 9 20:49:57 2009 Tags:
Soaked snow peas, ready for planting

I know it's a few days before Valentine's Day, but --- everybody else is doing it!  I succumbed to the sunny weather on Monday and planted my snow peas.  Since we save our seeds and don't have the pink, antifungal coating on them, I consider it doubly important to soak pea seeds until they plump up.  Then I plant them in a warm spell and in a sunny spot so that they'll sprout fast rather than rot in the ground.

Hen number 6 (the roaming loner) snagged a pea out of my cup as I hoed a planting trench into my pea bed.  In chicken world, that pea was obviously quite delicious, so much so that I had to quickly move the rest of my seed peas out of her reach then sneak in the plantings and lure her away with some chicken feed.  I'm still not sure she won't go back and dig up my pea seeds, but if not we can expect some crunchy pods in May.
Posted Tue Feb 10 07:36:10 2009 Tags:

Now that you can tell your walkers from your bounders, let's take a look at two major walker groups --- the canines and the felines.  You'll have plenty of opportunity to work on telling them apart when you track your household pets, and the knowledge you'll gain there will carry over into figuring out if a fox, bobcat, coyote, or mountain lion is lurking around Cat and dog trackyour henhouse.  Basically, large or small, a cat is a cat and a dog is a dog.

One of each to get you started.  Which is a cat and which is a dog?  Click for the answer...

This post is part of our Farm Tracking 101 lunchtime series.  Read all of the entries:

Posted Tue Feb 10 10:20:50 2009 Tags:

Here's a short clip of what the video feature looks like on the Fuji finepix S1000fd. It shows what the creek looked like this evening with all the snow and ice gone. The camera exports the file as an AVI format which uploads easily to Youtube, but as you can see the level of detail leaves something to be desired.

Posted Tue Feb 10 19:03:49 2009 Tags:

Shiitake logsWhen we started our shiitake logs two years ago, I didn't do my usual exhaustive research.  Some friends were buying plugs and asked us if we wanted half of the batch, so we simply followed along in their wake.  Luckily, it all worked out, but now we want to expand our mushroom production and need to put a bit more thought into it.

The first choice you hit when you enter the world of backyard mushroom production is species.  We tried one of those box kits of button mushrooms a couple of years ago, with bad results --- our house was too cold, so we didn't get many, and it only lasted a few weeks.  Since we don't have scads of free straw, wood chips, or manure, for now we've decided to stick to growing mushrooms in logs.  We have plenty of logs.  Read more....

This post is part of our Innoculating Mushroom Logs series.  Read all of the entries:

Posted Wed Feb 11 08:05:16 2009 Tags:

Mystery trackIf you guessed dog for yesterday's mystery track (shown here), you were right.  It's actually two tracks on top of each other, but not exactly registering, making the track look longer than it actually is and muddying the shape.  But the nails in the front give it away.  Domestic dog!

Chipmunk trackNow to those pesky bounders.  When I see a set of two or four tracks together with a big space between, I usually haul out my primary tracking tool --- the ruler.  The teensy tiny bounder tracks are shrews, mice, or voles.  Next size up comes chipmunks, then squirrels, then rabbits.  Be sure to measure both the length of the tracks and the space between each set of tracks --- both are distinctive.  Read more....

This post is part of our Farm Tracking 101 lunchtime series.  Read all of the entries:

Posted Wed Feb 11 12:02:55 2009 Tags:

foot bridgejack
The mechanical scissors jack is a handy tool almost everybody has tucked away next to the spare tire in the trunk of your car or truck.

I used ours today to repair some damage to the footbridge that happened during the last flood.

Posted Wed Feb 11 16:53:13 2009 Tags:

Sycamore logs for shiitake mushroomsWe took advantage of a beautiful day on Monday to cut down our mushroom trees.  Logs for mushrooms should be cut from healthy living trees so that your spawn doesn't have any wild fungi to compete with, and February is the perfect time of year to cut the fully dormant trees.

The type of tree to cut for your mushroom depends on the species you want to grow.  Read more....

This post is part of our Innoculating Mushroom Logs series.  Read all of the entries:

Posted Wed Feb 11 20:34:21 2009 Tags:
Wednesday was a busy day.  First of all, there was the tornado warning --- even deep in our cove, we experienced strong winds and pounding rain, then the front passed us on by.

Meyer lemon fruit, meyer lemon bar

More importantly, though, there was the lemon.  Thirteen months ago, Mark's mom gave me a dwarf Meyer lemon --- a cute little sprig of a tree about 18 inches tall.  Soon, the tree bloomed, and those lemons grew and grew and grew.  I've been watching one turn yellow for the last week and a half, but wasn't sure when it'd be ripe enough to eat.  Finally, the tree decided to force my hand --- as I moved a nearby plant, the ripe lemon dropped right off.

One lemon was just enough to make two thirds of the recipe of these Luscious Lemon Bars.  They were indeed luscious.  Lemons two, three, and four are also nearly ripe, so I'm eying other recipes on this comprehensive Meyers Lemon recipe page.  Decisions, decisions!
Posted Thu Feb 12 07:48:09 2009 Tags:

Once you've learned the cats, the dogs, and the bounders, you've really learned the most common tracks.  Here are a few more common and/or distinctive tracks you should be aware of.   (I had to forage for some of these images from the internet --- click to see their source.)

Deer track

The deer is impossible to confuse with any other species (unless you live in an area with moose or elk.)  The divided hooves may or may not have small back hooves showing.

Read more....

This post is part of our Farm Tracking 101 lunchtime series.  Read all of the entries:

Posted Thu Feb 12 13:33:41 2009 Tags:

brickI finished up stage two of the footbridge repair today by hammering some metal fence posts deep into the ground to serve as an anchor for the support base.

Some concrete mixed into the holes makes a good bond with the top of the fence post and hopefully will hold during the next heavy water incident.foot bridge

Posted Thu Feb 12 18:06:37 2009 Tags:

drilling holes in a shiitake logDay-time temperatures staying above 40 F --- check.

Beeswax hunted down (from a neighbor who keeps bees) --- check.

Time to innoculate the shiitake logs!  We actually only innoculated about a third of the year's logs Thursday since it's very wrist intensive work.  First, drilling holes in a diamond patternRead more....

This post is part of our Innoculating Mushroom Logs series.  Read all of the entries:

Posted Fri Feb 13 08:36:12 2009 Tags:

Field Guide to Tracking Animals in SnowI hope you've had fun exploring the world of barnyard tracks!  If you want to learn more about tracking, here are two of my favorite tracking books:

Peterson's Field Guide to the Mammals --- This isn't really a tracking book, but drawings of tracks are scattered throughout.  I photocopied all of the common ones onto one
11X14 sheet of paper --- perfect for carrying out on the field on a snowy day!

Field Guide to Tracking Animals in the Snow --- Once again, I photocopied out one overview page which I carry with me in the field.  It breaks tracks down into walkers and bounders, and then gives you hints to distinguish species from there.


This post is part of our Farm Tracking 101 lunchtime series.  Read all of the entries:

Posted Fri Feb 13 12:43:59 2009 Tags:

spade drill bitThe guy who owns the small local hardware store here recommended I use a spade drill bit to better bore through wood and I'm glad he did.

It really did seem to do a better job on our sycamore mushroom logs than last year when we used the auger style.

The total cost on the new bit was just under three bucks and I think I'll store it in a mushroom kit along with the waxy paint brush and the left over bees wax.

This post is part of our Innoculating Mushroom Logs series.  Read all of the entries:

Posted Fri Feb 13 17:17:54 2009 Tags:
Gathering stump dirt for potting soil

It's seed starting season!  I try not to do much seed starting indoors since I actually produce better plants in cold frames outside, but it's really hard to resist sometimes.  So I headed out to the ancient beech this week to collect some stump dirt.  Two years ago, I cleaned the tree out, but last year I left it alone and six gallons of stump dirt have accumulated in the base of the hollow tree since then.

A lot of people screen the stump dirt first, then bake it in the oven on low heat to sterilize it, but I am quite happy with just picking out the big bits of bark and using the stump dirt immediately.  I do have to weed out a sprouted Jack-in-the-Pulpit or Greenbriar now and then, but I like having living soil.  And, see --- a couple of days later, the broccoli seeds are already sprouting!  I just wish we had more of these gracefully aging trees in our forest.
Posted Sat Feb 14 09:28:39 2009 Tags:

flickr wheel barrow cartFlickr user kklos2 has an impressive collection of photos from some of the projects he's completed lately. It's really inspiring to see so many useful items being made out of scrap material.

I especially liked his self propelled wheel barrow pictured to the right here. Images like this can help to release the inner inventor in us all and maybe provoke something completely different and wonderful.

Posted Sat Feb 14 17:53:48 2009 Tags:

Blooming snowdropIt seems like this winter has been abnormally cold --- all of the neighbors agree, although I haven't actually crunched the numbers to find out if it's true.  We were all ready for spring during last week's stunning bout of sun and warmth.  Time to wash loads of laundry and dry them on the line, rip off our long johns, and bask in the sun.

Of course, it is still February and cold weather is with us again.  Luckily, spring has begun and I can let the snowdrops, the singing birds, and the early morning sun remind me of that fact.  Even the daffodils are starting to poke up.  Soon....

Posted Sun Feb 15 10:16:11 2009 Tags:

egg deliveryThere's something about this egg delivery method that really appeals to me on a minimal level. It reminds me of my early days when I delivered newspapers on a similar style moped.

It's a good thing he doesn't drive by this farm, because I have a feeling our dog Lucy might be tempted to follow him for miles in hopes of some sort of mishap where a few dozen broken eggs might be up for grabs.

The origin of the picture is unknown, so I guess it's possible I'm looking at it all wrong as a delivery vehicle and maybe it's a new form of alternative energy that somehow uses the power of eggs to run the engine?

Posted Sun Feb 15 21:16:36 2009 Tags:

I've been wavering all week on whether to eat our old hens or not.  They stopped laying in the cold this winter, and I figured since they were over two years old (and a breed of chickens which lays a lot for a couple of years then slows down markedly), it was time to put them in the pot.  We want to expand our flock this spring, and it sure would be easier to put the new birds in a pre-made tractor vacated by the oldsters than to build a new tractor.

Then came the sunny week...and the old hens started to lay.  I figure they're now laying an egg per bird every second or third day.  Right on the edge of what I consider to be worth feeding them.  So....

What do you think should be the fate of our old hens?

View Results
Free poll from Free Web Polls

Posted Mon Feb 16 10:10:35 2009 Tags:

Eggs poached in spaghetti sauceWhen Daddy sent me his essay on eating eggs for this week's lunchtime series, I sent him back the question I've been wondering about for months --- how many eggs can we safely eat in a week?  Like many other people, I had heard that eating too many eggs caused high cholesterol.

Daddy --- and numerous websites like this one --- debunked that myth.  Eating cholesterol doesn't raise your cholesterol.  Government health agencies are now putting no limit on the number of eggs you should eat in a week.  Good timing since those girls are laying up a storm!  Guess we can poach some eggs in our tomato sauce for lunch today.

But there are still some problems with eggs.  Stay tuned this week for an analysis of the problems and solutions.

This post is part of our Egg Advice lunchtime series.  Read all of the entries:

Posted Mon Feb 16 12:19:10 2009 Tags:

ditchProject water line ditch is finally at a two feet depth on over half of the distance.

The last twelve inches is pure clay, and requires some extra effort compared to the easy first few layers.

It's good to see the end of a project approaching, even if it might be done freezing by the time we're finished.

Posted Mon Feb 16 19:15:47 2009 Tags:

Dodder, a parasitic plantRemember that mini-book I'm working on?  After a bit of a rocky start, I've been whizzing through it, enjoying spending some time in the scientific literature as I polish my factoids.

One of the most interesting factoids I've uncovered has to do with dodder, the orange viney thing on the left.  This plant has no green pigment and thus doesn't make sugars through photosynthesis.  Instead, it twines around nearby plants, pokes modified roots into their stems, and sucks them dry.  Yum!

Dodder is pretty picky, prefering some plants over others for its dinner, and it seems to know how to grow toward the tastier specimens.  I spent a summer during college working in this very cool professor's lab, trying to figure out how dodder decides which plant to twine around.  I didn't make any progress, but I ran across an article recently mentioning that dodder reacts to airborne chemicals when determining the suitability of a host plant --- in essence, smelling its prey.

So, next year when the dodder once again wipes out my carrots, I will at least know that it's a pretty darn cool weed....  (Four and a half chapters down, two and a half to go!)

Posted Tue Feb 17 08:06:30 2009 Tags:

Two Problems With Fresh Eggs

EggsIf you have chickens or get really fresh eggs, you will be familiar with the first problem.  THEY WON'T PEEL!  If you want to make deviled eggs and boil them, removing the shell takes away big chunks of the egg white.  Not very pretty on the potluck table.  Simple solution.

Chill the eggs before peeling, either in ice water or by leaving them in the refrigerator at least three hours after bringing them to room temperature in cold water.  There is a bubble of air on the wide end of the egg.  Crack it there and remove the peel and the membrane under the peel.  It will now peel like a store-bought egg.

This post is part of our Egg Advice lunchtime series.  Read all of the entries:

Posted Tue Feb 17 11:03:16 2009 Tags:

can melting waxWe finished up the mushroom logs this afternoon.

One of the neighbors told me how he melted his wax with the bottom half of a beer can and I'm happy to report it makes cleaning up the mess just a matter of letting it cool and tossing it in a box for next year.

This post is part of our Innoculating Mushroom Logs series.  Read all of the entries:

Posted Tue Feb 17 17:13:35 2009 Tags:

Tagged and innoculated mushroom logsWe finished up mushroom innoculation on Tuesday, more than doubling our number of logs.  Two years ago, I didn't really take any data during innoculation, so I went a bit overboard this time, recording the number of plugs, mushroom variety, and the diameter for each log.  In a few years, I might be able to tell if there's an optimal diameter and number of plugs in order to bear early and/or continue to bear for a long time.

The disappointing part of the day was when I added up the number of plugs we'd pounded into logs and discovered that Field and Forest Products had shorted us on every variety!  We ordered 250 plugs of two varieties and 100 plugs of a third variety, but ended up with only 580 plugs (20 short.)  The good news is that when I called them up and complained (nicely), they immediately offered to send out "something" to make up for it.  I'm excited to see what our something will be!  I thought you all should be warned that they pack their mushroom plugs by weight, not number, and seem to lean toward the light side (and that you can get "something" very easily by calling up when you're short!)

This post is part of our Innoculating Mushroom Logs series.  Read all of the entries:

Posted Wed Feb 18 08:01:29 2009 Tags:

Here's an easy deviled egg recipe:
4 hard cooked eggs
2 teaspoons vinegar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon mayonnaise
1/8 teaspoon pepper
1/4 teaspoon dry mustard (or 1 teaspoon prepared mustard)
1 tablespoon cream if using dry mustard
Optional: chopped olives, pickle relish, chopped jalepinos, etc.

Slice eggs lengthwise, remove yolks and hash them till smooth.  Mix well other ingredients.  Garnish with paprika or parsley.

This post is part of our Egg Advice lunchtime series.  Read all of the entries:

Posted Wed Feb 18 12:45:59 2009 Tags:

Festiva ignition coil FordToday was very wet. Constant rain is just what I needed to troubleshoot the intermittent electrical trouble on the 1990 Ford Festiva.

Luckily today was moist enough to provoke the problem, which is the engine turning over but not starting, or when it does start it sometimes stalls.

It seems like I fixed it by unplugging the main distributor wire from the ignition coil and firmly re-seating it back into place. I drove it all afternoon in the pouring rain with no other problems. I think I may add a bead of silicone to the connector cover to decrease the chance of any more moisture getting inside. The real test will be to see if the problem doesn't pop up again next week or next month.

Posted Wed Feb 18 19:08:49 2009 Tags:

The last of the home grown onionsI knew this sad day would finally come, when I hit the bottom of the bag of homegrown onions.  After these three beauties are eaten, it's back to storebought for the next four to six months.

On a more positive note, the Copra Hybrid onions stored on a dark shelf in the kitchen for six months with only one onion rotting.  Although about a third of them did start to sprout a few weeks ago. 

We're not producing much of our fruit yet, and our garlic harvest last year was a bust.  I gave away all of our potatoes because I grew the wrong variety.  But beyond those few types, we haven't bought any vegetables from the store in almost a year.  And the freezer is still about half full!

Posted Thu Feb 19 07:36:46 2009 Tags:

The Nutrional Problem

EggsEggs used to be called "nature's most perfect food."  Today, eggs are out of balance, like most of our diets, containing little omega 3 fatty acids and an overabundance of omega 6 ones, for the simple reason that chickens' main food now is corn.  There are many ways to correct this imbalance, such as substituting worms for corn.  But free ranging them or pasturing them is not enough.

Studies have found that the omega 3 can be brought back in balance most simply by adding 5% (five percent) flaxseed to their food ration.  I've experimented with different ways of doing this other than paying double for special formula chicken feed.  Flax seeds sprout in about a week, so sprouts are one way.  My chickens love a tray of ground flax seed and gobble it up in no time, but they waste a lot picking and flinging it.  What works best for me is to grind the seed (30 seconds in a food or coffee mill), add enough water to make a paste, and feed it in a flat pan.  It is gone in a couple of minutes with no waste.

Editor's Note from Anna: My hens each eat three quarters of a cup of laying pellets per day, so using Daddy's math I should be giving each one about two teaspoons of flaxseed mash per day.  Dosages for your hens may vary slightly, but are probably in the same ballpark. For those of you with a lot of chickens, there are 48 teaspoons in a cup.

This post is part of our Egg Advice lunchtime series.  Read all of the entries:

Posted Thu Feb 19 10:59:46 2009 Tags:
Mark Thursday

Lucy and the sky with footbridge
Yesterday's heavy rains gave the footbridge its first serious threat since last week's attempt at shoring up the base with fence posts and concrete.

It seems to be holding fine with no shifting or additional erosion.

I'm in the process of researching different designs to hopefully discover a low budget answer to a wider and taller bridge complete with handrails and stability.

Posted Thu Feb 19 19:05:16 2009 Tags:
In what ways has the "Walden Effect" life differed from what you originally had envisioned? What was romanticized that turned out to be totally different or more difficult? What unexpected pleasures did you find?

--- Everett

Broccoli seedlingI took a look at a little essay I wrote in 2004 while dreaming of (and saving for) land.  Here's the short version of what I envisioned --- eating strawberries and homegrown tomatoes, rescuing minnows out of buckets of creek water before using it to irrigate the garden, hunting down fencebreaking cows, and visiting outhouses with a view.  As you can tell, most of the specifics of my dream were limited to buying the land and moving there.  Still, I can definitely say there were some surprises after arrival.

When I dreamed of moving back to the land, I always imagined living here alone.  Then Mark fell into my life, and now I can't imagine doing it without him.  As I've said before, it's amazing to be part of team working toward a common goal.  Good surprise!

My dream timeline of self sufficiency was way off.  Read more....

Posted Fri Feb 20 07:40:52 2009 Tags:

Avian Aqua Miser Chicken NipplesDaddy's lunchtime essay this week was short, so I thought I'd take this opportunity to give a bit of an update on our Avian Aqua Miser.  We've had a couple of months of sales to work the kinks out of our system, and we have some exciting new products in our chicken waterers store.

Several of you have asked if we sell the Avian Aqua Miser nipples by themselves (or if we know of a supplier who would sell directly to backyard chicken keepers.)  We have to buy the nipples in bulk, but we've decided to offer a 5-pack of chicken nipples in our store for those of you who buy the DIY kit and want to make lots of Avian Aqua Misers, or for those of you who might just want to experiment and see if you can come up with a better waterer.
Avian Aqua Miser
Meanwhile, we lowered the price on our 3-pack DIY chicken waterer kit --- I finally crunched the numbers and realized I was charging a higher markup on that product than on the others.  Oops!  :-)

Finally, we've added in a one year, money back guarantee.  We're positive that if you have chickens, you'll love the Avian Aqua Miser, so we'll take back your waterer no questions asked and refund your money if you have a problem.  (You pay return shipping.)

That's it for advertising for this month!  Stay tuned for next week's installment of Daddy's food and health series --- a focus on refined sugar and flour.

Posted Fri Feb 20 11:55:32 2009 Tags:

liquid nailsIf I had to be stranded on an island with only 10 tools, a caulk gun of liquid nails would be in the top 5.

This is an amazing adhesive that works with just about any kind of surface and when it dries you've got a substance as hard as wood.

It can be found everywhere for just a few bucks per tube, or if you have a really big project you can get it in a gallon paint can. I used a tube today on the footbridge and you can already feel a decrease in the bounce.

Posted Fri Feb 20 17:14:22 2009 Tags:
Drill and cut pieces for a bee hive lid

The bee hives Mark's friend gave us were almost complete, but none of them had exterior lids.  Friday, we put together a couple of lids (minus paint and tin, which will come soon.)

Unpainted bee box lidFirst, I used this very handy diagram of a Langstroth hive to mark the pieces on a new sheet of plywood.  Then Mark helped me cut them out with the table saw --- a carefully choreographed dance of him pushing and me pulling, both of us monitoring the whirring blade and the straight line.

And here's the finished product, screwed together rather than nailed as suggested in the diagram.  I know it's simple, but that's about the level of my woodworking skills.

Posted Sat Feb 21 07:17:40 2009 Tags:

In what ways has the "Walden Effect" life differed from what you originally had envisioned? What was romanticized that turned out to be totally different or more difficult? What unexpected pleasures did you find?

Walden pond moonriseThe concept of "Time Ownership" is one of the unexpected pleasures that first pops to mind when I think of that question.

It has taken some considerable distance from my previous corporate life to fully realize just how little of my time I was able to save for myself and how much of it was traded away for a paycheck and a parking spot. I fixed copier machines full time...the words "full time" being the operative point I'm trying to illustrate here. My time was full of an endless list of chores that always served the greater good of the company. My time off always seemed to have an edge to it because deep in my mind I knew Monday morning was only a day or two away. Before long you adapt to the less than healthy pace and forget what it was like to own 100 percent of your day. You eventually convince yourself that 48 hours on the weekend and a couple of weeks a year is all you need to survive.

I think I'm in the last stages of my corporate de-programming and sometimes it's a struggle to decide which hours go where for which goal, but it's a beautiful struggle that fully belongs to me and at the end of the day a by-product of that struggle can be felt in the form of a warm fuzzy feeling in the pit of my stomach as I reflect back on a noise-free day of getting things done on the farm.

The future looks brighter when you fully own your present, and I believe you fully own the present by seizing all 24 hours of each day. Maybe that's what those Latin folks were talking about a thousand years ago when they were yammering about Carpe Diem?

Posted Sat Feb 21 20:37:14 2009 Tags:

Heritage apple tree nurseryWhen Mark and I got married in December, I told everyone that we didn't want any presents.  We try to stay out of the trap of consumerism, and the truth is that we're not really at the Newlyweds Putting Together A Household stage where masses of kitchenware, etc., would be useful.

But my friends know me far too well.  Two of them already have found the chink in my armor, dangling fruit trees and bushes in front of my nose until I snatched them with gleeful thanks. 

Yesterday, Mark and I went to pick out two apple trees --- a wedding gift from his aunt --- from a heritage apple nursery in Lee County.  Despite having no website and no obvious means of advertising (even his sign on the highway was down), this guy was obviously doing a booming business.  He had over 500 heritage apple varieties and a thousand plus grafted trees, all eight inches apart in long, irrigated rows.  He does most of his business in scionwood, though --- selling little branches off of his carefully collected varieties to folks who want to graft them onto their own rootstocks.  The business seems like a great example of a way to make good money off of a small lot of land, though the guy also told me that he works a full time job.

We chose a little Early Transparent (one of my all time favorite apple varieties) and a Virginia Beauty (a bit randomly because I thought we were only getting one tree and hadn't done research on a second variety.)  Along with our Stayman Winesap, Winter Banana, and Striped Rambo at home, this should round out our apple orchard.  Thank you, Sue Ella!

Posted Sun Feb 22 08:06:45 2009 Tags:

In what ways has the "Walden Effect" life differed from what you originally had envisioned?


electricityMy original vision of living off the land was always based on an experimental foundation. I was already moving towards a more minimal way of living in the big city environment when I met Anna. She helped me to see how smooth minimalism can be when mixed with nature.

I'm still surprised at how delicious and fulfilling it is to be so closely involved in the personal food production we do here and can't imagine going back to my old ways of fast food and frozen dinners.

Posted Sun Feb 22 17:03:50 2009 Tags:

one year old Yellow Transparent apple treeDespite cold and spitting snow, I spent Sunday afternoon planting the apple trees.  This is the smaller of the two --- the one year old Yellow Transparent (aka June Apple.)

I built my usual raised beds, which seem to be the only way I can get fruit trees to thrive on our clay soil.  The extra drainage and fertility help the trees get off to a good start, and the size of the bed reminds me where the tree is so that I don't whack it with a lawn mower, a watering hose, or just run into it myself.

These two apples fill in my last gaps in the orchard, unless I start to whittle away at the surrounding woods to create more open space.  I spent several joyful hours developing a better orchard map and spreadsheet, realizing that if all of my current trees survive, I'll eventually have tree fruits ripening from June to October.  The pears and two of the apples are good storers, so hopefully they'll keep in the root cellar until late winter or early spring.  

I dream of the day when I can stop buying fruit at the grocery store, but I know that day will be a few years in the future --- I expect my first peaches and cherries next year, nectarines and perhaps an apple in 2011, and full production by 2013.

Posted Mon Feb 23 07:25:57 2009 Tags:

SugarIn David Servan-Schreiber's book Anticancer, we learn that cancer tricks the body to feed it by using the body's response to inflammation, and that without this inflammation cancer cannot thrive.  What do sugar and refined flour have to do with inflammation?

Plenty, it turns out.  Studies of cultures without juveline acne discovered that diet played an important role in acne inflammation.  By feeding Western adolescents a diet without these two foods, their acne miraculously disappeared in three months.

The human body developed over many eons eating in a certain way.  Our ancestors' diets were made up of a lot of vegetables and fruit, with the occasional eggs and meat from wild animals.  This diet began changing with the advent of agriculture around ten thousand years ago.  Up until recently, humans consumed around four pounds of sugar a year, mostly in the form of honey.  Our ancestors occasionally had some wild grains, but they'd never heard of flour.

In less than two hundred years, the Western diet went from under ten pounds of sugar eaten per year to over one hundred and fifty pounds.

Editor's Note from Anna: If you missed the first week of the food and health series, you can find it in our archives.  Daddy introduced the Anticancer book in part two.

This post is part of our Food and Health lunchtime series.  Read all of the entries:

Posted Mon Feb 23 12:21:24 2009 Tags:

Leyden jarElectrolyzed water is gaining some credibility with today's L.A. Times report. It's still looked down upon in most circles like some sort of snake oil, but Japan and Russia have been using it as an alternative to toxic cleaning chemicals for decades.

It costs about a penny a gallon to produce with a machine that will run you anywhere from 600 to three thousand dollars. The device takes a small amount of electricity, normal tap water, and some dissolved salt and produces hydrogen gas and hydroxide ions. One of the resulting products is 10 times stronger than bleach without harming people or the environment.

The down side is that it can't be stored for very long and it needs to be measured to make sure it's at an effective level. The Japanese are making the most progress by testing its ability as an air filter and Sanyo is talking about a washing machine that promises to get your clothes clean without nasty detergents.

Maybe someday in the future we can all replace bleach and other toxic cleaners with this technology?

Posted Mon Feb 23 16:56:32 2009 Tags:

Chickens eating chickweedI noticed that Lucy had jumped on my lettuce bed, ripping the row cover fabric (bad dog!), so I uncovered some strawberries in order to replace the fabric.  Under the thick row cover, the strawberries were green and happy, but so was chickweed --- luscious-looking growth that covered nearly the entire bed.  I ripped out the weed and carted it off to the chickens, who were thrilled to have such a succulent February feast.  I guess now I know why it's called chickweed!

Posted Tue Feb 24 07:54:00 2009 Tags:

White breadFoods with high glycemic indexes, such as sugars and white flour, trigger in our bodies a complex reaction which results in the release of insulin growth factor (IGF) which stimulates cell growth.  Both increased insulin and IGF from these foods trigger inflammation, making us fatter, more pimply, and more able to grow tumors into cancer.  And diabetic, by the way.  Diabetics have an increased risk factor for cancer.

I was diagnosed as diabetic over ten years ago.  I began medication and at the same time the hard work of changing how I eat.  My last a-1-c hemoglobin test scored below 6.  My doctor said, if I hadn't been diagnosed, he would say, based on this test, I wasn't diabetic.

We are experiencing a cancer epidemic in America.  Between 1940 and 2000, cancer has increased from less than 60 to 140 cases per 100,000, taking in account the aging of the population.  Prostrate cancer raised by 258 percent in the United States between 1978 and 2000.  Breast cancer rates have tripled since WW II.

The good news is, we have eaten our way into this mess, and we can eat our way out of it!

This post is part of our Food and Health lunchtime series.  Read all of the entries:

Posted Tue Feb 24 11:10:14 2009 Tags:

Club car loadSix 5 gallon buckets of horse manure, two 50 pound bags of chicken feed, and three sycamore logs for more mushrooms paints a nice picture of what happened today.

Field and Forest Products really came through by immediately shipping out a package of plugs that more than made up for the 20 we were missing from the first order.

Posted Tue Feb 24 18:33:45 2009 Tags:

Painting the bee hive lidsAlthough our barn is a terrible mess, it's also chock full of useful supplies.  When friends and family start to throw things away, we instead cart their junk home to toss into a corner.  Someday I'll get it organized, but for now visiting the barn is a bit like browsing through a crowded antique shop.

Tuesday, I headed out to the barn in search of paint for the bee boxes and came back with a full can of maroon.  No white paint to be found, but I started to ask myself --- why are bee hives painted white?  A quick internet search suggested that white is traditional primarily to reflect heat in the summer.  Since I plan to cover the lids with reflective tin, I figured I could fly in the face of tradition and stick with maroon.  I wonder what farmers did before google?

Posted Wed Feb 25 08:12:30 2009 Tags:

grape juiceHere are some foods with a high glycemic index.  They should be avoided, reduced in our diets, or at least balanced by lower glycemic index foods (such as combining wheat flour with other whole grains):

  • sugar, honey, syrups
  • potatoes, mashed potatoes
  • corn flakes, rice krispies, all other bleached or sweetened cereals
  • james and jellies
  • fruit cooked in sugar, fruit in syrup
  • sweetened drinks, sodas
  • industrial fruit juices
  • alcohol (except during meals)

This post is part of our Food and Health lunchtime series.  Read all of the entries:

Posted Wed Feb 25 10:53:37 2009 Tags:

Lucy washerThe TC1840H garden cart has taken some heavy use this firewood season, and an important welded spot near the front worked its way loose. Since the steering bracket is just below the frame I decided to secure the troubled spot through both pieces to add some additional strength.

It was easy to drill the four holes, although it might be neater to space them apart just a wee bit more to avoid the washer crowding seen here in the picture.

Lucy was eager to be the first to test out the new repair, and then she promptly asked for her evening walk.

Posted Wed Feb 25 18:03:56 2009 Tags:

Forest gardenEdible forest gardening --- the idea of mimicking natural ecosystems while providing tasty food --- is something I'll probably be talking about a lot here for the next 6 weeks.  I ordered three delicious books through interlibrary loan, and I can already tell that I will be thinking of very little else until I work my way through those 1,000 textbook-sized pages.

My library hasn't managed to find volume 1 of what seems to be the most amazing of the forest gardening books, so I've started with volume 2 of Dave Jacke's Edible Forest Gardens.  I've only flipped through, looking at the pictures, and then read the first 30 pages, but already I can tell that this book will be my new religion.  The ecology is astonishingly sound and detailed --- not just talking about planting flowers to attract beneficial insects, but listing which plants to use to attract which specific beneficials.  The 130 pages of plant lists in the appendices tug at me, making me flip back and forth between lists and text.

Now my mind is whirling with ideas that I will try hard not to put into practice until I read at least a couple of chapters and get more specifics.  But already I'm considering....

Don't miss our related Planning The Forest Garden lunchtime series.  Read all of the entries:

Posted Thu Feb 26 07:50:11 2009 Tags:

beansLow Glycemic index foods (eat all you want):

  • natural sweeteners, agave nectar, stevia, xylitol
  • dark chocolate (70%)
  • mixed whole grain cereals
  • multi-grain bread
  • basmati or tai rice
  • multigrain pasta and noodles
  • quinoa, oats, millet, buckwheat
  • nicola potatoes
  • lentils, peas, beans
  • sweet potatoes, yams
  • oatmeal, muesli, All-bran, Special-K
  • fruit in its natural state, especially blueberries, cherries, raspberries
  • water flavored with lemon, thyme, or sage
  • unsweetened green tea
  • one glass of red wine a day with a meal
  • garlic, onions, shallots

Avoiding candy and snacks between meals is important because without balancing food they raise insulin levels, triggering inflammation.

This post is part of our Food and Health lunchtime series.  Read all of the entries:

Posted Thu Feb 26 12:46:26 2009 Tags:

terminalI spent the better part of an hour today arguing with the nut to the far left here in the picture. I wanted it to break free and turn freely, but it kept its arms crossed and insisted on not budging.

The main problem was the lack of leverage. The nut is at the end of the positive side of the flow and the fact that it wasn't stationary made the job that much more difficult. After much inner debate I decided to relent and let the nut stay where it was. I then squashed what was left of its precious copper connector and bent it in a way so as to fit snugly in the slot where the bitter end of a thick wire would go in the new connector. Once tightened down the new configuration seems solid enough to last another 250 thousand miles.

Posted Thu Feb 26 21:40:32 2009 Tags:

Raking no-till beds to prepare for plantingAs Mark puts it, once the gardening year really gets going, it's like riding a full speed locomotive --- good luck slowing it down or changing course.  I can already feel the gardening locomotive picking up steam, with 32 beds slated to be planted in March.  (We plan to plant about 125 beds of annual veggies this year, with the vast majority going in on our frost-free date in May.)

This week, Mark and I went over to our neighbor's house to collect some horse manure.  We sell the neighbors veggies, and they throw their peels and tops into a pile with their horse manure, which we then collect in late winter to put back into the garden.  Thursday I raked 11 beds, removing the weeds and working the half-composted manure and kitchen scraps into the soil.  It would be better to let the manure compost all the way, but at the rate of 2 gallons per 20 square feet or so, the worms make short work of any organic matter.  (I'd love to double up on my manure application, but those horses will only give me so much!)  Read more....

Posted Fri Feb 27 08:36:11 2009 Tags:

From Diet for a Poisoned Planet:

applesRed Light Foods (all non-organic in this list):

  • non organic apples (342 pesticide residues in 36 samples)
  • raw apricots (157 residues)
  • raw celery (240 residues)
  • raw sweet cherries (215 pesticide residues in 36 samples)
  • collard greens (260 residues in 36 samples)
  • raw cucumbers (189 residues)
  • grapes
  • green peppers (256 residues)
  • mixed nuts (246 residues)
  • raw peaches (266 residues)
  • peanuts (282 residues in 36 samples)
  • raw pears (176 residues in 36 samples)
  • raw plums (171 residues)
  • potatoes (205 residues)
  • raisins (200 residues)
  • spinach (279 residues in 36 samples)
  • raw strawberries (237 residues)
  • summer squash (185 residues)
  • raw tomatoes (214 residues in 36 samples)

Editor's note from Anna: Daddy introduced the concept of red and green light foods in part 5 of his food and health series.

This post is part of our Food and Health lunchtime series.  Read all of the entries:

Posted Fri Feb 27 11:26:48 2009 Tags:

ignition henThe 1990 Ford Festiva is still chugging along without that annoying problem of stalling. I'm thinking it may have been possible that moisture was creeping in through a small crack in the seal where the new wire seats up with the coil. Hopefully the silicone I added will keep that area nice and dry.

This Plymouth rock hen expressed some issues with having her picture taken today, but I explained how it's been weeks since I've had a good chicken picture and that seemed to put her at ease long enough to allow a few shots.

Posted Fri Feb 27 17:59:26 2009 Tags:

First crocusI'm still deeply entrenched in my Edible Forest Garden book, thinking most recently about pathways.  So much of what I read in the book articulates what I've been learning over the last couple of years as I lay out paths that do and don't work.

For example --- nodes.  The book suggests that when laying out permanent paths in a garden, you first draw a map with primary destinations on it, places like compost piles, the entrance to another part of the garden, and restful nooks.  Then connect the dots to create your main pathways.  Lucy taught me this when I laid out a grid of beds which didn't take into account the diagonal path she wanted to take to get to the old house (a node) from the trailer (another node).  After many garden beds were trampled along her diagonal, I gave in and created a main thoroughfare following her path, with the result that we both got where we were going quicker and with minimum soil compaction.

Path widths are also essential to plan out in advance.  I made the terrible mistake of making my paths far too narrow (about 1.5 - 2 feet) in my first gardening enterprise.  My new beds in 2008 had wider paths between them --- about 3 feet to allow easy hauling of weeds and such in the garden cart.  This year, I'm starting to add four main thoroughfares which are 4 to 5 feet wide, ways to get the golf cart into each part of the garden.

By the time I finally tricked myself into closing the book last night, it was late and the first Wood Frogs were chuckling their mating call in the floodplain with one creaking chorus frog joining in.  Earlier, I stumbled up on the first tiny crocus of the year.  Yes, spring really is on its way!

Posted Sat Feb 28 08:32:59 2009 Tags:

Ridgid 1 horsepower pumpIf I had to choose one type of device that was the most labor saving for us on this farm it would have to be our collection of three submersible pumps.

We've had the Ridgid 1 horsepower sump pump for close to two years now and it's really living up to its name. Our first pump was only a 1/6 horsepower which was purchased for around 80 dollars, and it did a good job, but for a little over 200 the Ridgid puts you in a whole new class of water pumpage. We started out using it for garden irrigation and now have it doing duty in the hand dug well helping our drinking water make it to a set of filters inside.

I've got ours adapted to fit a typical water hose and each time I fiddle with it I'm reminded of the early days when we first got to the property here and there was no electricity. The baby apple trees needed to be watered by carrying 5 gallon buckets from the creek, which was not all that close by. It was a tough job, but a good memory. It's hard to describe just how great it feels to be a part of testing and building such an integral part of our infrastructure. I grew up always having running water just a faucet away and took it for granted every day. Now I get a rush of accomplishment whenever I hear the trickle and slush of water making its way to wherever I direct it.

Posted Sat Feb 28 17:05:37 2009 Tags:

Anna Hess's books
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About us: Anna Hess and Mark Hamilton spent over a decade living self-sufficiently in the mountains of Virginia before moving north to start over from scratch in the foothills of Ohio. They've experimented with permaculture, no-till gardening, trailersteading, home-based microbusinesses and much more, writing about their adventures in both blogs and books.

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