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

archives for 05/2009

May 2009
Collage of current garden photos.

Although our calendar says that summer begins on June 21, pagans have long celebrated May Day as the beginning of summer.  I can see their point.  The woods are closing in as the leaves unfurl on treetops, the first box turtles crawled out of their muddy hibernation this week, and the first lightning bugs lit up our yard.

The garden is starting to look summery too....

Posted Fri May 1 07:23:05 2009 Tags:

Working on the ford.The last attribute I want to talk about is pacing.  In the last five years, I've noticed that all city slickers (myself included) have a tendency to dive into physical labor with two feet and wear themselves out after ten minutes or an hour.  It's easy to pick out folks used to physical labor because they start slowly, take frequent breaks, and can keep going all day long.  In the process, those well-paced farmers get about ten times the amount of work done as the eager beaver city-slicker did.

Pacing is also important on the larger scale....

This post is part of our Homesteading Qualities lunchtime series.  Read all of the entries:

Posted Fri May 1 11:45:18 2009 Tags:

peanut shellerJock Brandis has turned his inventive mind from being a Key Grip on B grade movies like the sci-fi comedy Normanicus to helping poor folks discover a more efficient method of shelling peanuts and other material.

The design is simple and solid and can be built for around 50 bucks. The bulk of the invention is two concrete cones, which can be formed with a set of fiberglass molds that Jock's North Carolina company provides. The latest incarnation uses pedal power to get the grinding done while producing a fan effect that helps to separate the shells from the nut.

Someday I'd like to build one of these and try to adapt it for the heavy walnuts that drop from the trees around here.

Posted Fri May 1 21:05:33 2009 Tags:
Rooting sweet potato slips.

We turned off the heating mat under our sprouting sweet potatoes a week or two ago when the daytime temperatures hit the eighties.  Then I moved them into a sunny window and the small sprouts promptly went wild.

Yesterday, I decided the biggest sprout was large enough, so I pinched it off and moved it to its own cup of water (right photo.)  Within a week or so, this sprout will have enough roots to go in the ground.  Meanwhile, other sprouts will continue to develop on the parent tuber.  With the addition of bottom heat, starting our own sweet potato slips turns out to be child's play!

(If you missed it, you can read about what our sweet potatos looked like on April 9 and April 24.)

This post is part of our How to Start Sweet Potato Slips series.  Read all of the entries:

Posted Sat May 2 09:01:15 2009 Tags:

big wheel firewood carrierOne of the biggest problems with the basic wheel barrow is the wheel.

When an inflated tire sits for a few months or longer you can expect it to loose some of its air pressure.

The solid tire version can only handle so much weight before it gets too hard to push.

The NuBarro from Germany seems to be a new level in single wheeled hand trucks.

That big wheel never needs air and is extremely tough. I've never seen this in real life, but it's easy to imagine how much more traction a person can expect when you look at the impressive design. The maximum weight is 750 pounds, and the price is in the 150 dollar range. A bit more than your average wheel barrow, but it might be worth it if you're pushing through ground heavy in sand or snow.

Posted Sat May 2 17:01:17 2009 Tags:
Bank of creek

My brother, Joey, came over yesterday and tempted me out for a perfect Saturday afternoon of creekwalking.

Eroded tree roots

We passed trees whose roots had been eroded bare by rushing water.  (Notice the taproot on the walnut in the center photo.)  Continue the photo adventure....

Posted Sun May 3 08:06:00 2009 Tags:

customized garden rockIf you want something to last a million years, then carve it into stone.

Words have a mysterious power once they make the transfer from thought to reality, and if you want to harness the full potential of this power you might want to consider having it written in stone.

We've had our new garden stone for about a week now and I've noticed a slight change in the way I feel about the Waldeneffect as a concept. The handsome rock represents another level of commitment to this life style and provides a non physical anchor to the idea of a path that continues to increase in sustainability as we solve each puzzle that pops up. I was pleasantly surprised by the positive effect this little rock ritual has had and feel like I've created a literal milestone for our permaculture life back here in the woods.

Jeremy and Tavia at can make you a customized stone like the one pictured next to our dwarf apple tree. They have fair prices, and a quick turn around time of only about a week.

Posted Sun May 3 17:54:59 2009 Tags:

Rain on a tangerine leaf.We enjoyed a wonderfully rainy weekend.  About an inch and a half fell over the course of two days --- the perfect speed to soak the soil and sprout those seeds I planted last week.

I also put our house plants outside to harden off in the rain.  Cloudy skies mean relatively warm nighttime temperatures, so I can be lazy and leave the plants out all night.  Usually, hardening off is a maddening series of carrying your plants out in the day and in at night, worrying about too much sun and too much cold.  Our citrus in their five gallon pots are not a joy to relocate over and over, so I am thrilled to get to go the lazy route.

Meanwhile, the US Drought Monitor tells me that the extreme southwest tip of Virginia, where we live, has finally popped out of drought conditions.  Awesome!!!!  Thanks, rain!

Posted Mon May 4 07:16:25 2009 Tags:

Our weedy lawn provides nectar sources for pollinating insects.Permaculture is a method of combining traditional agricultural systems with ecological concepts to acknowledge the fact that no one gardens in a vaccuum.  It's a pretty big idea which will take decades to fully explore.  This week, I'll just present a smattering of concepts we're working with at the moment, trying to create a more natural ecosystem in our garden.

You probably already use some permaculture concepts if you garden organically.  For example, composting is a natural way of mimicking the formation of soil.  You may get some natural pest control by leaving spots for insect-eating birds to hang out in your garden.  Those of you with honeybees have probably noticed how they promote good pollination of your crops.  On a larger scale, we leave 90% of our property in a natural state to acknowledge the fact that humanity has overrun the world and other living things need a place to grow, slither, and fly, even if they have no obvious use to us.

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

Posted Mon May 4 10:54:24 2009 Tags:

meal worm life cycleWhile I was finishing up the ditch digging project I noticed a significant population of grubs, which got me to thinking about the possibility of raising meal worms for a chicken feed supplement.

As usual the internet has quite a lot to say on the subject of meal worms, but I found the Sialis website and all was made clear.

It seems like a bit more work than raising worms, but once you read the Sialis information you'll feel like an expert.

You should be ready to wait around 3 months for your first harvest, and most folks recommend a group of 1000 to get started, which can be had for around 20 bucks. This could be an excellent way to raise the quality of your eggs if your hens live in a coop and compete with a large flock for juicy insect snacks. Stay tuned to see if I can figure out a way to cut back on our store bought chicken feed with the help of a well planned insect community.

Read other posts about alternative chicken feed:

While you're improving your chickens' healthy, you should make sure they have clean water, an easy task with our homemade chicken waterer.

Posted Mon May 4 17:41:22 2009 Tags:

Muddy trakeLast week, I struggled to weed in ground gone dry and hard.  In some spots, I had to rake the surface with the back end of the trake to loosen it enough to pull weeds loose.  I probably should have just watered the beds first, but it seemed crazy to be watering in April!

A couple of inches of rain later, it's prime weeding weather.   This is what the trake and I looked like after we pulled a wheelbarrow and a half of weeds out of the garden.  Too bad the rain also makes the weeds grow twice as fast as I can pull them!

Posted Tue May 5 07:25:55 2009 Tags:
Chicken tractor

Our most obvious permaculture technique is our chicken tractors.  We have three of them, and I wouldn't be surprised if we have twice that many in a few years.  For the uninitiated, a chicken tractor is a moveable chicken coop/run with everything your chickens need in a small space.  Each morning, I move the tractors to a new patch of lawn, where they scratch for bugs, engulf greenery, and fertilize the ground.  We get free lawnmowing and fertilizing along with better eggs while the chickens get healthy additions to their diet --- it's a win-win.

Animals are an important part of any natural ecosystem, but most modern farming tries to cut them out of the picture.

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

We invented our homemade chicken waterer specifically for tractors.  Check it out to prevent spilling of water on uneven terrain.

Posted Tue May 5 11:17:59 2009 Tags:

bee collageToday was a good day to check on our first bee hive.

Anna is a bit troubled because we were unable to see any eggs, which might mean the queen had some "issues" during her mating flight.

Some folks might order a replacement queen which will cost you about 40 bucks, or you can hope the colony corrects itself by making a new queen.

We've got 3 more packages of bees to pick up later this week, so we're going to take a wait and see approach for now and hold off on ordering a new queen.

Posted Tue May 5 18:00:58 2009 Tags:

Drone cellsI'm an amateur beekeeper and a reforming worrywort, which is a bad combination.  As Mark posted yesterday, our hive check showed no eggs or larvae on Tuesday.  In addition, as you can see to the left, a lot of the capped brood is drones, which could mean our queen didn't get properly fertilized during her mating flight.  (Drones --- male bees --- come from unfertilized eggs.  You can tell drones at the pupal stage because they're bigger, so the cells are capped with a dome raised above the surface of the comb.)

We also found two queen cups, which means the hive is probably not happy with the queen and is trying to replace her.  At first, I was worried sick, but now I'm a bit intrigued.  Challenges are what make life interesting!

Posted Wed May 6 07:59:45 2009 Tags:

Creating an outdoor worm bin.Worms are one of our newer permaculture additions to the farm.  Just like chicken tractors, worm bins add animals and fertility back to the garden ecosystem in a controlled manner.  You can read about our experiments with an indoor worm bin here.

Last week, I decided it was time to move our worms to larger quarters outdoors.  Although we'd been planning on trying an outdoor worm bin eventually, the move was mostly the result of a mistake I made.  All winter, I kept the bin healthy by feeding the worms solely on Mark's tea bags.  But a month or so ago I started cleaning out our winter stores, throwing in a lot of rotting sweet potatoes and nasty frozen peaches.  It was way too much food all at once (and too wet because of the peaches), so we ended up with a fruit fly paradise.

When we have time, we'll probably make a more professional outdoor worm bin, but for now I put a quick one together in an afternoon.  I placed a few cinderblocks in a rectangle to form a basic perimeter, spread my current worm bin contents over the ground in the center, and topped it all off with a load of grass clippings from the mulching lawnmower.  It's essential that worms stay cool and damp, so I put the outdoor bin in the shade behind the trailer where it also gets runoff from the roof.  In a few weeks, I'll give you an update on how our exterior bin is doing!

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

Posted Wed May 6 11:12:05 2009 Tags:

Paul StametsPaul Stamets is an interesting guy with a genuine desire and belief that he can help heal some of the damage humans have done to the Earth with the help of mushrooms.

If you don't have time to read one of his 6 books, then I suggest a recent interview by Frank Aragona as an excellent introduction to the wonderful world of mushrooms.

This is an exceptional 2 part interview from Frank's podcast archive at, which is totally free of charge. You'll learn how Paul got started with mushrooms, his work with the government and petro-chemical industry, and a great breakdown of the history and evolution of mushrooms and how important they are for survival.

I've heard several podcasts lately and this one really charged me up like no other. Frank posed some great questions and Paul took the ball and ran a few enthusiastic miles with it.

Posted Wed May 6 18:22:43 2009 Tags:
First squash seedling and oak leaves.

I just realized that I forgot to list all of the things we'll be planting in May.  Suffice it to say that this is the month we put in all warm weather crops --- tomatoes, peppers, sweet potatoes, basil, beans, corn, squashes of all sorts, cucumbers, melons.  You name it, we plant it.

Supposedly, the Native Americans planted their corn when the oak leaves were the size of a squirrel's ear.  We put in our first planting of corn (and a lot of other vegetables) a week ago when the oak leaves were just shy of that size.  Now, after five days of solid rain, the oak leaves are more cat-ear-sized and the first seedlings are peeking out of the ground.  The photo above is a seedling of our favorite type of summer squash --- Goldbar.

Posted Thu May 7 07:58:51 2009 Tags:

Lucy beside a large bush of comfreyMost farmers --- and I'm no exception --- get tunnel vision about producing the crops they're interested in.  But permaculture admonishes us to put in some species which have other uses beyond going in our bellies.  I don't spend too much time worrying about planting nectaries since the majority of our property is one huge nectary and our "lawn" is primarily flowering weeds.  On the other hand, I'm now starting to think seriously about dynamic accumulators.

Dynamic accumulators are plants which are good at mining nutrients out of the soil...

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

Posted Thu May 7 10:44:05 2009 Tags:
Mark Bee happy

Honey bee collageThree more packages of bees are safely tucked away in their new boxes. We paid 2 dollars extra and had the queens marked with a little green dot on this batch, which seems to be worth it for the peace of mind you get knowing for sure she's alive and kicking.

Posted Thu May 7 21:05:53 2009 Tags:
Wet weather

After three inches of rain in a week, the creek finally rose.  Now, I want you to imagine us carrying three boxes of buzzing bees (screened boxes, not cardboard boxes) across this footbridge.  Then hopping across those stepping stones and scrambling up a muddy bank.  It was quite an adventure!

Posted Fri May 8 07:45:52 2009 Tags:

Three sisters planting methodThis series wouldn't be complete without at least one good failure.  Last year, I decided to try the Native American three sisters approach to gardening, planting hills of corn, beans, and squash together.  I'll never try that again.

The theory is elegant (and a bit like a collaborative spin on rock-paper-scissors.)  The corn provides a support for the beans to run up.  The beans are nitrogen fixers which fertilize the soil for the greedy corn plants.  And the big prickly leaves of the squash deter large herbivores and shade the soil.

In our real world trial, the plants weren't such good neighbors since the beans and corn were stunted by the massive growth of the squash.  The prickly squash leaves did deter herbivores --- humans wanting to pick the beans, that is.  We ended up with a huge, sprawling squash patch, nowhere near enough beans and corn, and enough cushaws and zucchinis to feed everyone we know.

In retrospect,
I made a big mistake in choosing our seeds.  Three sisters was practiced by Native Americans growing old varieties --- we're talking field corn to make cornmeal, not sweet corn, and runner beans, not bush beans.  The problem is, we prefer the taste of the less aggressive sweet corn and bush beans.  I'd rather use the method as the basis for a crop rotation, keeping each type of vegetable in its own bed each year.  But I was glad I tried it --- permaculture is all about experimentation!

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

Posted Fri May 8 10:53:32 2009 Tags:

This is just over 2 and a half minutes of our fourth bee package install yesterday. The frames in this box have no foundation material. Instead they have a beveled edge for the bees to begin building on. The way I understand it the artificial foundation prompts the bees to make bigger cells, which provide more honey. Building without this mechanism may yield less honey, but a stronger colony. Experimenting is a big part of the fun.

I wonder if people who keep bees tend to be more experimental?

Posted Fri May 8 20:53:02 2009 Tags:

Chamomile, rooting sweet potatoes, shirley poppy

I've spent all week writing and editing so that I could turn in the first complete draft of my book yesterday.  Words may be a bit scanty on the blog over the next few days as the well refills.

For now, enjoy a visual journey through our garden.  Self-seeded chamomile and poppies are blooming, the sweet potatoes are rooting, the worms are slithering, and the peaches are swelling.

Red worms, peaches

Posted Sat May 9 09:06:10 2009 Tags:

C realm podcast KMOThe C-realm podcast is an evolving expression of a dynamic guy by the name of KMO. The C stands for consciousness, and he has a way of choosing words and guests that really take you down roads mainstream media could never even dream of.

I'm still going through his archive of shows and have really been drawn in to the story that's unfolding. He seems to be open to new ways of thinking when it comes to such subjects as the re-location of community and agriculture. I think people who read the waldeneffect might enjoy his show and I encourage everyone to give him a listen. His new shows, which come out every week on Wednesdays are something I now look forward to.

Posted Sat May 9 22:28:09 2009 Tags:

Wheelbarrow of weedsMy poor sister came over Saturday morning, and I promptly put her to work pulling weeds.  The rich soil at the south end of the garden is friable rather than muddy even after a week of heavy rain.  I'd be making mud pies if I was in the clayey north side of the garden right now, so I steer clear.

Despite being a bit overwhelmed by the sheer amount of weeds currently in the garden, I have to admit that there is something deeply satisfying about filling wheelbarrow after wheelbarrow with weeds.  I've started dumping them where I want raised beds in my forest garden, which seems to be working pretty well.  After about a week of sun, most of the weeds die into rich soil and mulch.  I throw some cardboard or several layers of paper over that and cover it with woodchips to hold down the more tuberous weeds.  Then I plant I-can-grow-anywhere comfrey straight into the rotting weeds, and the dynamic accumulator takes off.

Posted Sun May 10 07:30:09 2009 Tags:

queen cage/frame inspection
It's been a few days since the new bees have been installed, so today was inspection day. Only 1 out of the 3 new queens had been freed by the workers. A friend recommended a small nail hole in the remaining candy to help the escape along. The candy barrier is there to give the colony time to get accustomed to the new queen's scent. The workers eat their way through it because they know the queen's on the other side.

Posted Sun May 10 17:21:38 2009 Tags:

Foundationless frame.I'm starting to get a handle on foundationless bee frames.  I've tried three methods, a good one, a mediocre one, and a bad one.

The mediocre one was the one I started with, which you can see to the right.  I cut each sheet of foundation into five pieces, sandwiched one foundation piece between the wooden strip and the rest of the frame, and nailed the wooden strip into place with vertical nails.  The bees built down from the foundation piece just fine, but the foundation tended to slip loose before they started building on it.  I had to reattach about a third of the foundation pieces in the first week, after which all was well.

Read more about my experiments with foundationless honeybee frames....

Read other posts about foundationless frames and varroa mites:

Posted Mon May 11 07:17:53 2009 Tags:

Have you ever been out in the garden weeding and had to go check your garden map because you weren't sure which plants were vegetables and which were weeds?  It's time for the name that seedling quiz!  (No fair using a text only browser or looking at the image file names.)

Red maple seedling

Tomato seedling

Click for answers....

This post is part of our Name That Seedling Quiz lunchtime series.  Read all of the entries:

Posted Mon May 11 11:31:18 2009 Tags:

garlic closeup
This year's crop of garlic seems strong enough to last the entire season. It's one of the few staple items we have to buy and it always stings at the grocery store because I know 90 percent of the garlic in this country is grown in California, and that's a long way from being local.

We planted several different kinds back in the fall to find out which variety is best for our climate. With any luck our store bought garlic days are going to be over some time next month.

Posted Mon May 11 20:01:34 2009 Tags:

Oedema on a sweet potato leaf.When I see a problem with one of my plants, my first thought is, "Okay, is this caused by a bacterium, fungus, or insect?"  It took me half an hour on Monday to realize that the white specks on the upper leaves of my sweet potato slips were none of the above.

The Cornell University Plant Disease Diagnostic Clinic resolved my mystery:

Oedema occurs when roots take up water faster than it can be used by the plant or transpired through the leaves. Water pressure then builds up in the mesophyll or internal cells of the leaf causing them to enlarge and form tiny swollen blister­like areas....

Oedema is most prevalent in the late winter especially during extended periods of cool, cloudy weather. It is likely to develop when the soil is warm and moist and the air is cool and moist. This environment results in rapid water absorption from the soil and slow water loss from the leaves.

I turned off the grow light when I moved all of the other plants outside to harden off, which (along with a week of rain and high humidity) slowed transpiration of water out of my sweet potato slips.  I've turned the grow light back on to help the slips transpire until the sunny weather returns.

Posted Tue May 12 08:01:57 2009 Tags:

Now that you're all warmed up, let's try some harder seedlings:

Carrot seedling

Parsley seedling

Asparagus seedling

Cosmos seedling

Click for answers....

This post is part of our Name That Seedling Quiz lunchtime series.  Read all of the entries:

Posted Tue May 12 09:12:44 2009 Tags:

sweet potato startSome of the sweet potato starts graduated to outdoor living today. They might need some supplemental water for the first few days if they show signs of wilting.

If you're crazy about sweet potatoes then you might want to add the Tater Day festival to your calender for next year. It's the first Monday in April, and the only place in the world that honors the sweet potato with its own parade and celebration.

George Washington Carver did some interesting work with sweet potatoes back in the late 1930s. He figured out a way to make a corn syrup substitute that leaves behind a sweet potato sugar. The process can be done at home and the link has all the info.

This might be a good experiment to do in the fall.

Posted Tue May 12 19:53:01 2009 Tags:

Soaking shiitake logs.I finally got my act together Tuesday and started soaking our shiitake mushroom logs.  I suspect that I could have done this earlier in the year, but during our blueberry patch clearing operation, a tree fell on the logs and I hadn't gotten around to excavating them.

The logs we're soaking are two years old.  We inoculated them in spring 2007 and ignored them all that year.  Then, in 2008, we started soaking them and harvesting mushrooms.  Each week during warm weather, I soak two or three logs for 24 hours, which prompts them to produce mushrooms.

Our soaking setup is extremely simple, but there are a few tricks.  We level the ground underneath the kiddie pool, then lay down an old carpet to protect our $11 plastic investment.  We discovered that it's much easier to keep the logs submerged by putting a cinderblock on each side and then two to four on top.  Until you try it, you probably can't imagine what a pain it can be to try to sink three bobbing, rolling logs....

If everything goes as planned, we'll be eating mushrooms next week!

Posted Wed May 13 08:00:39 2009 Tags:
Posted Wed May 13 08:07:03 2009 Tags:

Broody CochinThis angry looking hen is our one and only Cochin breed.

She's been displaying all the classic signs of being broody.

The last couple of days she has insisted I leave the day's haul of eggs with her for safe keeping.

We've been debating the possibility of buying a few fertilized eggs for the next generation of birds, and our white Cochin could do most of the work. It might be a skill that saves her from an early retirement.

Posted Wed May 13 18:26:27 2009 Tags:
Anna Ecotourism
Purple Trillium, Mist Flower, Hawthorne, and Wild Onion

As part of our recession-proof income diversification, I've been leading a group of ecotourists around the area this week.  I've had a blast, getting paid to wander around in the woods identifying flowers.  If I weren't such an introvert that I require an hour of decompression for each hour I spend in the company of people, I'd do this more often. :-)

Posted Thu May 14 06:32:03 2009 Tags:
Posted Thu May 14 06:48:40 2009 Tags:

Meow meow meow meow, meow meow's meow meow!

Posted Thu May 14 18:51:28 2009 Tags:

StrawberriesMom emailed me to let me know that she was eating the first strawberries out of her garden.  Did I have any?

Nope, I replied, thinking with a touch of envy about her city garden which concentrates the spring heat and fruits early.

Then I realized that I actually hadn't checked on the strawberries all week.  They're in the part of the garden which hasn't been weeded yet, and I've been avoiding it because the weeds give me fits.  I wandered over, and, sure enough --- strawberries!

I have to admit that I ate two before I was able to bring one in to Mark.  Shh!  Don't tell him!

Posted Fri May 15 08:10:30 2009 Tags:
Posted Fri May 15 11:49:54 2009 Tags:

chicken artI'm not exactly sure what Steve M was thinking when he designed this beast of a machine, but I like the direction he's going.

Sometimes a machine doesn't need a good reason to exist other than the fact that it hasn't been done before.

The combination of wind power and chickens attracted my attention like a magnet.

While we're on the topic of automatic chicken care, check out our homemade chicken waterer which gives your birds clean water for days.

Posted Fri May 15 20:48:17 2009 Tags:

LucyA good dog is very important on the farm, and Lucy is definitely a good dog.  But she does have a few bad traits.  A couple of nights a month, she goes on a barking jag and it's extremely difficult to stop her.  I pull the covers over my head, turn on the fan, and remind myself that folks in the city have to deal with noise every night.

I think I discovered the solution, though, yesterday while listening to Science Friday.   A dog expert explained that when a dog is barking like this --- "Woof woof! pause Woof woof! pause" --- she's saying, "Pack leader!  Come over here and check this out!"

My response --- "Lucy!  Shut up!" --- sounds to her just like "Woof woof! pause Woof woof!"  Which makes her think that I've joined with her in calling for a pack leader, and that she should definitely keep barking.

Instead, the dog expert suggested that I call her over and thank her for barking and ask her to settle down.  That is supposed to make her realize that the pack leader has come out and checked on the problem and deemed it no threat.  I'm looking forward to giving it a shot!

Posted Sat May 16 08:21:49 2009 Tags:

star trek
A stellar storyline combined with an amazing level of chemistry between the crew equals one of the most enjoyable movie experiences I can remember.

Watching this adventure on the big screen really allowed me to fully lose myself in this new and exciting frontier which boldly goes where no film has gone before.

Posted Sat May 16 17:08:34 2009 Tags:

Mower on the back of the golf cart.Mark picked up a commercial mower dirt cheap last week, and Saturday was its test run.  It's very powerful, but I'm not sure where it's going to fit in our permaculture mowing system yet.

My hope was that the new mower would be able to cut tall grass and leave it in one piece, to be dried into hay/straw for chicken bedding.  (I've found that mulched grass is suboptimal for that purpose.)  Unfortunately, the commercial mower works like a beefed up version of a typical lawn mower, so it chunks up the cut grass.

Instead, I think it's probably going to be our backup mower for when the grass grows so fast it's hard to mow with the mulching mower.  Since our last mowing a week or two ago, for example, the grass had already licked halfway up my calf.  We were glad to have the big mower's power even if we didn't get to keep the mulch!

Posted Sun May 17 08:37:56 2009 Tags:

fowl visions chicken feeder
The folks at have figured out an effective and low budget way of building an automatic chicken feeder.

You can see more details at their fine website.

I wonder how much extra a chicken will eat under these conditions compared to the old fashioned method we use of pouring out a set amount of feed on the ground every morning?

Maybe a more accurate question should be at what point does more feed stop equaling more eggs?

Posted Sun May 17 16:43:11 2009 Tags:

Blackberry flower8 pm Sunday night, I checked the weather forecast and saw a frost warning.  Mark and I rushed out and covered up half the strawberries, the summer squash, half the okra, the watermelons, and the first bed of sweet potatoes with row covers.  I tied plastic produce bags around several of the peaches (which are now nearly two inches long!)  The temperature was 50 F, with near total cloud cover (a good sign since clouds hold in the heat at night.)

8 am Monday morning, the frost was beginning to melt off the ground.  Only time will tell whether we need to replant the tender seedlings which didn't get covered --- beans, okra, canteloupe, winter squash.

Blackberry winter!  I could pretend that knowledge of this event is why I haven't gotten my tomatoes in the ground yet, but it'd be a bitter lie.

Posted Mon May 18 07:51:25 2009 Tags:

Map of native earthworm populations in the U.S.In gardening circles, worms are considered a panacea.  In ecological circles, though, you'll hear talk of the dangers of invasive earthworms.  So, what's the dirt on wrigglers?

I've heard it bandied about that there are no native earthworms in the U.S.  Wrong.  The Wisconsian glaciation, which ended 12,000 years ago, did wipe out earthworms under the ice, but this only affected the northernmost states.  Since then, the native worms have advanced back north a bit past the glaciation line. 

Here in southwest Virginia, we've got native worms.  Unless you live out west or way up north, you probably do too.

This post is part of our Earthworms in the Garden lunchtime series.  Read all of the entries:

Posted Mon May 18 11:54:00 2009 Tags:

trakeMark: "The more I use this Trake the more I like it."

Anna: "Yeah....I know what you mean, the solid-cast aluminum design and molded grip make it a tool you really miss when it's not there." -long and dramatic sigh followed by a furrowed brow.

Mark: "Uhhhhh...maybe we should get a second Trake?"

Anna: "I think that's a great idea!"

Posted Mon May 18 19:28:58 2009 Tags:
Rebuilding raised beds.

Mark and I are devoting this week to remedying a couple of major garden mistakes we've made over the last year.  The first mistake was totally mine --- I let the weeds take over the garden in late fall last year.  In a traditional garden, this isn't a huge deal, but for no-till it's a catastrophe since it means a major weed infestation the next spring (right now.)  Short of losing two year's soil ecosystem growth by tilling, or buying masses of mulch to cover the beds, the only solution is many days of hand weeding.

The second mistake was a joint mistake....

Posted Tue May 19 08:13:59 2009 Tags:

Contain those crawlersJust because we have native earthworms, though, doesn't mean that the invasives aren't a problem.  We've introduced species from elsewhere for bait, vermicomposting (gulp!), and accidentally in plant roots.

The biggest problems from these invasive earthworms is occurring in previously glaciated areas where native earthworms don't occur.  There, invasive earthworms are totally changing soil dynamics by eating up the duff (leaf litter) on the forest floor, which in turn affects the trees and wildflowers which grow there.

Even down here in the South, we have invasive earthworms.  When competing with native earthworms, invasives tend to gain a foothold in disturbed and fragmented forests.  Scientists are beginning to realize that invasive earthworms down here may be linked to the spread of invasive plants like the extremely troublesome Japanese Stiltgrass and might also compete with our forest salamanders.

This post is part of our Earthworms in the Garden lunchtime series.  Read all of the entries:

Posted Tue May 19 11:59:53 2009 Tags:

spud bar

Dig, tamp, pull, and push. Repeat until garden is happy again.

Posted Tue May 19 17:57:34 2009 Tags:
The upper garden.

Remember how I was worried two weeks ago about a bad queen bee?  I think we've experienced a successful supersedure since then!

What's a supersedure, you say?  If a hive isn't happy with its queen, they'll try to make a new one.  A young larva can be moved from the worker track to the queen track by feeding her different food and building her a bigger cup.  When the new queen reaches adulthood, the workers kill the old queen by surrounding her and causing her to overheat, then the new queen takes over the hive.

Two weeks ago, we saw two queen cups in the problem hive.  Yesterday, there were no queen cups but I saw plenty of eggs and young larvae.  It sounds like a successful supersedure, though I won't know for sure until I see some capped larvae.

In other news, as you can see in these pictures, we've whacked the upper garden back into shape!  I'm constantly amazed at how much Mark and I can get done when we work together.

The upper garden from another angle.

Posted Wed May 20 07:53:48 2009 Tags:

Eisenia fetida, a safe worm for vermicomposting, can be distinguished by yellow striping between segments.If you live north of the glaciation line, you might want to check out this pdf key to invasive earthworms.  You can read about the ecological groups of earthworms here, and can also see photos of some of the worst invasives.  We should all be very careful about any earth-moving operations which can introduce invasive worms, and should definitely refrain from dumping excess bait worms in the wild.

The question I really wanted answered, though, was --- should I hunt down my vermicomposting worms and smash them?  Lumbricus rubellus is an invasive species which is occasionally used in worm bins.  Luckily, most vermiculture worms are Eisenia fetida, a species that appears to be safe to use, even though it's not from around here.  You can identify the troublesome L. rubellus by its dark red to maroon color with a yellow underside and no striping between segments.  If you have it, kill it!  Luckily, it looks like our worms are Eisenia.

This post is part of our Earthworms in the Garden lunchtime series.  Read all of the entries:

Posted Wed May 20 09:49:21 2009 Tags:

      Amish Steampunk

Flickr user Kevin Borland captured the amazing image above that still has the gears in my head turning. This Amish family seems to have evolved to a sort of steam powered solution to farm machinery, which seems brilliant on multiple levels.

The homesteading community could learn a lot from observing how the Amish solve problems in such simple and innovative ways. These casual snap shots provide us one of the few looks into this interesting culture due to their clever rejection of big chunks of the world.

Posted Wed May 20 18:29:19 2009 Tags:

Tomato seedlingI like to plant tomatoes when my mind is empty and my heart is full.  When the sun is starting to drop down toward the horizon, and the evening chill is creeping up through the daytime heat.

The spade slides down into crumbly raised bed soil, tipping a divot of dirt to the side.  I sink my fingers into manure and one big scoop hits the hole, followed by a handful of crumbled eggshells to prevent blossom end rot.

I slide plain soil into an indentation in the center of the amendments, slip a tomato seedling down deep, and drench its base with sun-warmed water.  Crumbling soil up to its cotyledons, I imagine the deep roots my tomato will grow along what was once stem.

Last year I planted tomatoes close.  Most raised bed vegetables seem not to mind rubbing shoulders, but my tomatoes glared and sulked.  So this year I've spread them wide, 37 plants in 9 beds.  Nine heirloom varieties to sink our teeth into, dry, freeze, and feed us year-round.

Tomatoes are the only vegetable I'm willing to baby, to coddle.  I imbue them with all of the spiritual strength an athiest can muster.  I almost pray.

Posted Thu May 21 07:41:07 2009 Tags:

Worm burrowHow about in the garden?  Earthworms can be very useful, speeding up decomposition of organic matter and working it into the soil.  Their burrows also form channels which fluff up compacted soil and give roots an easy avenue to grow down.  So far, I haven't seen anybody saying anything negative about earthworms in an agricultural setting, though please comment if you know otherwise!

The best way to expand your garden's earthworm population is to go no-till.  One study suggested that tilling up a garden dropped the earthworm population to a third of its former levels.  Mulching is another way to increase your earthworm levels, as is adding lime to raise the soil's pH.  Chemicals are a definite no-no if you want worms.

This post is part of our Earthworms in the Garden lunchtime series.  Read all of the entries:

Posted Thu May 21 12:31:41 2009 Tags:

21 inch lawn mower bent bladeThe mulch machine is out of commission for a while due to a bent blade.

Heavy vibration and noise are a clear indicator of an out of balanced blade.

Some people might be tempted to whack it with a sledge hammer and force it back into shape. This will cause a weakening of the metal and might break in two under stress, which would be very dangerous for the person pushing it and anything else nearby.

Posted Thu May 21 17:49:00 2009 Tags:

Smash your tvI've been chatting over email with a reader who shares many of my same dreams and tribulations about the journey toward simplicity.  She asked me if I could give her any advice, and the first thing I said was to throw out the television.

I know that advocating ditching the TV sounds a bit Amish.  The Amish have been on my mind lately, partly because I'm fascinated with them and partly because Joey recently pointed me to two fascinating articles, one about Amish technology and one about Amish cell phone use.  The articles note that Amish don't reject new tchnology out of hand.  They give it a spin, let a few folks try it out to see how it impacts their family and community life, then ditch new technology which adversely impacts them.

Mark and I weren't really able to take that approach with television since we'd both had the tube since childhood.  Instead, we tried the reverse --- ditching the TV when we moved to the farm and monitoring the results....

Posted Fri May 22 07:09:27 2009 Tags:

Feeding worms to chickensIn a permaculture situation, worms have other uses beyond soil health.  The best example comes from Harvey Ussery, who has built massive worm bins in his greenhouse.  He uses the worms to create compost and also harvests the worms as a high protein treat for his chickens.  Maybe someday we'll have that many worms!

This post is part of our Earthworms in the Garden lunchtime series.  Read all of the entries:

Posted Fri May 22 10:58:39 2009 Tags:

weeding robot vs Anna

The weed population in the garden is in full retreat as we continue to get a handle on the situation.

Bjorn Astrand at Halstad University of Sweden is making some impressive progress with his weed killing robot named Lukas.

Lukas uses on board cameras and image processing software to zero in on its prey. You can tell from the picture that he's built for row crops, which wouldn't cut it around here.

Posted Fri May 22 17:00:11 2009 Tags:

WwoofAs the weeds grew over our heads (I exaggerate only slightly), Mark and I decided we needed to look for help.  We tossed around the idea of hiring a part-time helper or getting an intern from the local college.  But we finally settled on WWOOF.  For a minimal fee ($5), the organization hooks up folks interested in learning about organic farming with farmers.  We get free labor and they get an education and free room and board.

Most WWOOF hosts ask their WWOOFers to stay for at least two weeks, but we're not ready to make that kind of commitment.  Instead, we're looking for people who want to experience the Walden Effect for a weekend.  If you're interested, give us a holler!  We're intrigued by the idea of meeting likeminded folks while also pulling some weeds.

Posted Sat May 23 08:46:15 2009 Tags:

Home robot weed control prototypeI've discovered that  several people are working on a serious robotic solution to weed control all around the world.

In my opinion the little guy pictured to the right has the most promise for widespread acceptance.

He seems to be small enough to make mass production possible and I would imagine any successful product would need to function on a minimum of power. A happy ending would be some sort of solar docking bay the robots returned to when they got low on juice.

Posted Sat May 23 21:10:39 2009 Tags:

Grape leaf nipped by frost.I got so caught up in weeding this week that I forgot to let you all know what happened with our Blackberry Winter.  Basically, there were little bits of nippage here and there, but no one died.

In fact, I might have been better off not covering the peach --- the bags seemed to cause about half the fruit to drop off.  The cucurbits and okra, though, clearly enjoyed their blanket.  In retrospect, I probably should have covered the grape cuttings we had stuck in the ground a month ago --- their leaves got nipped back and I'm not sure if they'll be able to recover.  Live and learn!

Posted Sun May 24 08:36:46 2009 Tags:

   garden robot

The robot's day in the sun is fast approaching. From the level of research being done one can predict that an affordable garden robot might be here within 5 to 10 years.

What would happen if we grew to rely on such robots for the bulk of our agricultural work? Is there a danger in becoming dependent on this type of technology?

I'm not sure I would feel the same if I let a machine do all the work and never got my hands dirty.

Posted Sun May 24 16:46:20 2009 Tags:

I'm usually the reincarnation of Aesop's ant, but as the first produce comes out of the garden I turn into the grasshopper.  Half a gallon of strawberries?  We'll serve them for breakfast, lunch, and dinner!  The first flush of shiitakes and the first handful of snow peas?  Eat them up!

After a few weeks, I'm sure I'll start refilling the freezer.  But for now, it's such a joy to be eating fresh food again after a winter of frozen.

Posted Mon May 25 07:09:38 2009 Tags:

LadybugThere are just shy of a million insect species in the world, and sometimes I think that the majority of them inhabit my garden.  I'm constantly stumbling across new forms --- brilliant, metallic beetles, soft-bodied grubs, fantastical fliers.  As with last week's earthworms, I'm stuck with a conundrum --- should I squish them or love them?

Last year, our single book purchase was Garden Insects of North America, a 656 page tome with nearly half those pages full of color photos.  As the book's wisdom slowly starts percolating into my thought processes, I'm realizing that my best bet is to learn the bad bugs and assume everyone else is either benign or actively beneficial.

This week, I'm going to point out the four worst insects plaguing our garden right this instant.  Of course, the insect fauna of the garden changes with the seasons, so there will be new insects to learn throughout the year.  If I remember, I'll post about the new bad bugs as I cruise the garden over the weeks to come.

Posted Mon May 25 10:26:03 2009 Tags:

hybrid corn apparatusWhen I was a youngster the first thing I wanted to be when I grew up was a garbage man. Why? Because I thought it was very cool to hang off the back of the truck while it was still moving down the road.

I never did get to realize that dream, but the corn hybrid crew in the picture to the right seems like an even better gig.

They positioned young men on these machines and drove down rows of corn. The goal was to de-tassel a row to allow the pollen from the other row to spread by wind to form a hybrid seed corn.

Posted Mon May 25 19:59:40 2009 Tags:

MarkI wandered into Mark's room and saw that he was listening to the Agroinnovations podcast.  "Tell us more about your back to the land story," I heard.

Then Mark's voice popped out of the computer.  "Well, like a lot of stories, it starts with a girl..."

Awww! :-)  I had to listen to the whole thing, and I hope you will too.  This was the first time Mark had been interviewed for a podcast, so he was a bit nervous.  But I suspect you'll like hearing his story as much as I did.

Episode 53: The Walden Effect with Mark Hamilton.

Posted Tue May 26 07:35:33 2009 Tags:
Ant farming aphids on a pear leaf.

I have to admit that I have a soft spot in my heart for aphids.  Sure, they suck the life out of my vegetables, but did you know that ants farm aphids just like we farm chickens?

Species: Many species in the  aphid family (Aphididae)

Plants Affected:
many types of fruits and vegetables and ornamental plants

Natural Enemies:
Lady bugs, lacewings, syrphid flies, parasitic wasps.  (It's far better to encourage natural populations of these predators than to introduce them.)

Organic Control:
Hosing with water; insecticidal soap (but may harm natural predators)
An aphid feeds by sticking its mouthparts into the phloem ("vein") of a plant.  The sap in the plant's phloem is under pressure, so the liquid rushes into the aphid's body, passing so quickly through its gut that a large amount of excess sap passes straight through the insect and out the other end.  This liquid, known as honeydew, is high in carbohydrates.

Enter the ants.  Ants consume the second-hand sap, but they also take care of the aphids to make sure their meal tickets stay alive.  They'll chase away predators and move aphids to new plants.

In my garden, aphids don't tend to be a huge problem.  In the spring, I start to see their populations exploding, then ladybug larvae show up and eat the aphids.  The ecosystem tends to equalize at low levels of both aphids and ladybugs.  If I'm concerned about an aphid infestation, I usually just squish them with my fingers or spray them with a hose.

Learn to keep bugs at bayRead other posts about Organic Insect Control:

Posted Tue May 26 12:08:13 2009 Tags:

   bee inspection

All four colonies are thriving and doing everything they should be doing. The sugar water free ride is coming to an end as we've decided it's time to stop feeding and let them get all their nutrition from the local ecosystem.

Posted Tue May 26 18:48:54 2009 Tags:
Pollen and nectar flows at Wetkee Farm

Every beekeeper I talk to seems to think that a different plant is the be all and end all when it comes to pollen and nectar production.  I finally tracked down some hard data --- Some Ohio Nectar and Pollen Producing Plants from the Ohio Extension Service --- which laid all the guesswork to rest.

Based on their table of major nectar and pollen producers, I've discovered that May and June will be the major honey production months on our farm.  It sounds like we're going to get a summer lull if we don't come up with some more extensive White Sweet Clover patches.  Or discover some other summer-producers....

Posted Wed May 27 06:58:58 2009 Tags:

Flea beetleFlea beetles are a fact of life here on the farm.  If you see tiny holes speckling your vegetable leaves and little black bugs jumping off the plants, you're infested.

As with aphids, I tend to take a live and let live approach to flea beetles.  Unless my plants are stressed, flea beetles don't tend to build up to very serious levels.  If I'm feeling aggressive, I'll sprinkle wood ashes on the leaves, which is supposed to cut down on flea beetles.  I'm not sure I've ever seen a real reduction after treatment, but on the other hand I've never had a really bad infestation of flea beetles.

Species: Potato Flea Beetle (Epitrix cucumeris)

Plants Affected:
potatoes and tomatoes

Related Species:
Several other flea beetle species feed on nightshade family plants and cabbage family plants (along with some less common species which hit several other types of plants.)  The species which feeds on eggplant is serious bad news!

Natural Enemies:
Lacewing larvae, Big-eyed Bugs, Two-lined Collops, Western Damsel Bug, and Northern Field Cricket, but most predators aren't present in early spring when flea beetles are a problem.

Organic Control:
sprinkling wood ashes; no till soil management; floating row covers over eggplants

Learn to keep bugs at bayRead other posts about Organic Insect Control:

Posted Wed May 27 12:48:49 2009 Tags:

   mulch machine close up

If you get a lawn mower blade installed backwards it'll still cut some grass, just not as smooth and crisp as having it cut the right way.

You might want to confirm this as soon as you start up the new blade as opposed to mowing all day and then asking yourself why it's not slicing through the lawn like its usual ninja self.

Posted Wed May 27 19:06:13 2009 Tags:
Young woods

Black Locust wasn't listed as a major honeybee pollen and nectar plant on the webpage I linked to yesterday, but the species came highly recommended during the bee workshop we attended last month.  So I poked around a bit more on the internet and stumbled across NASA's HoneyBeeNet.  The site includes a very comprehensive forage map which divides the entire U.S. into regions and lists the primary pollen and nectar producing plants for each region.  Black Locust is among the top seven plants listed for our region.

So, a couple of a weeks ago, I asked Mom if she had any Black Locust seedlings under her trees that I could transplant to our farm.  "Are you sure you don't have one in your woods already?" she responded.

"Our forest is too old to have Black Locusts in it," I huffed, thinking unkind thoughts about silly parents who don't understand forest succession.

So she saved a seedling for me, and last Wednesday I brought it home.  Now, where to put it?  I wandered around looking for a good spot, then decided to plant it in some very young woods at the edge of our yard.  "A few of those little trees will need to come down to give it light," I thought.  I peered up into the canopy --- and discovered half a dozen little Black Locusts growing above my head.  They weren't blooming because Japanese Honeysuckle had them nearly smothered, but I pried them free and have high hopes they'll bloom next year.  Now I just have to apologize to Mom....

Posted Thu May 28 07:14:51 2009 Tags:

GrubWhenever I poke around in our soil, I usually come across some big white grubs.  Grubs are the larval form of scarab beetles, a large family which includes over a thousand species in the U.S. and Canada.  The best known of these is the Japanese Beetle, which can be identified by looking at the nearly microscopic hair patterns at the butt end of the grub.

I consider grubs to be bad news, and in many cases they are since they turn into pest beetles or eat plant roots.  On the other hand, some grubs are useful since they decompose organic matter in the soil.  Regardless, I toss them all into the chicken coop and watch the hens fight over these fat bundles of protein, along with the worms Mark adds to sweeten the pot.

Species: Many species in Scarabaeidae (Scarab family)

Plants Affected:
Japanese Beetles (Popillia japonica) feed on the leaves of grapes, apples, plums, cherries, strawberries, and various ornamentals.  Some grubs feed on plant roots.

Related Species:
Other common white grubs turn into June Beetles and several other species.

Natural Enemies:
Parasitic wasps, diseases including Milky Spore, nematodes.

Organic Control:
Traps may be worse than useless since they'll lure your neighbor's Japanese Beetles into your garden.  Luckily, both the adults and grubs are very easy to handpick and the chickens love them.

Learn to keep bugs at bayRead other posts about Organic Insect Control:

Posted Thu May 28 11:29:49 2009 Tags:

New Trake
The second Trake arrived today and I can already feel an increase in our leverage over the local weed population.

It came with a tag that proclaims it to be part of the "Hen-Feathers" collection.

Its 16 inch length and 25 degree angle are nice, but its one piece cast construction is what makes it such a gem in my eyes.

I'd like to see an oversize version of it as a piece of garden sculpture in some fancy park in the city. That would be some outside art I could get behind.

This one has a green grip, which I'm thinking of securing with electrical tape to avoid the scrunching that happened to the original after hours of heavy use.

Posted Thu May 28 18:37:10 2009 Tags:
Anna Mulching

Mulched base of tree.This is the season when you can easily lose your garden if you don't keep the weeds below the level of the emerging seedlings.  So, for days and days and days, our outdoors chores have consisted of hours and hours and hours of weeding and mowing.  I can't speak for Mark, but I'm heartily sick of it.

But Thursday afternoon I took a little break to mulch.  This is the dessert, the gravy at the end of weeding.  Well-rotted wood chips, streaked with white lines of mycelia, sodden with imbibed rainwater.  I can't really explain why I love mulching --- maybe because I know that for every hour I spend mulching, it saves three or four hours of later weeding, maybe because I know the mulch will break down and feed my perennials.  Regardless, I feel revived enough to carry on weeding like crazy for another couple of weeks until the garden is safe.

Posted Fri May 29 06:15:30 2009 Tags:

Asparagus beetle larvaeThe Asparagus Beetle is a pest I'd never heard of until I started taking the camera out into the garden last week and hunting for bugs.  They're so small and inconspicuous that I think it's quite possible they were here last year and I just didn't notice.

Asparagus Beetle larvae nibble on asparagus leaves.  Light infestations are considered normal, but heavy infestations can injure or kill the plants.  I'm still in the learning stages with this pest, so I'm going to see if any of their natural predators show up.  Meanwhile, I'm handpicking some of them to feed the chickens.

Species: Asparagus Beetle (Crioceris asparagi)

Plants Affected:

Related Species:
Spotted Asparagus Beetle is similar, but the larvae only feed on asparagus berries, so they are less harmful.

Natural Enemies:
A parasitic wasp (Tetrastichus asparagi), a nematode (Steinernema feltiae), lady beetle larvae

Organic Control:
hand picking (but this is hard since the larvae are small)

Learn to keep bugs at bayRead other posts about Organic Insect Control:

Posted Fri May 29 11:39:56 2009 Tags:

charcoal chimney starterYe olde charcoal grill saw the light of day yesterday as we cooked up some asparagus and shitake mushrooms with a few hot dogs on the side.

My mom introduced me to the charcoal chimney starter years ago and grilling has never been the same since.

Your coals get heated up faster while using less lighter fluid. If you have a large crowd to feed you might want to have two going at the same time.

Posted Fri May 29 19:46:16 2009 Tags:

Garlic scapeIt looks like I missed out on a delicacy this spring --- garlic scapes!  We planted four kinds of garlic last fall to test which one is the tastiest and grows best in our soil.  One kind was a hardneck garlic, which sends up reproductive stalks (scapes) and eventually produces little bulblets.

Now that the scapes are a couple of weeks old, I finally got around to hitting the internet.  It turns out that good gardeners pluck the young scapes and eat them in stir fries, pesto, and other delicacies when they're still young and tender.  Mediocre gardeners (us, apparently), finally remember to pluck off the scapes when they're a little older, then discard them.  Bad gardeners leave the scapes on and end up with garlic bulbs which are 33% smaller, on average.  Next year, we'll be good gardeners!

Posted Sat May 30 08:36:30 2009 Tags:

Japanese Honeysuckle flowersDid you ever wonder which out-of-town plants are okay to put in your flower bed and which ones are likely to slip their leash and turn into the next kudzu infestation?  The Ladybird Johnson Wildflower Center has an extensive list of cultivated plants known to be invasive along with non-invasive alternatives. 

Say you're at the local nursery and notice a pretty honysuckle for sale --- should you buy it?  Stop by the website and you'll see that Japanese Honeysuckle is an invasive, but that you can choose between 11 alternatives which fill a similar niche.  Just what I've been looking for!

Posted Sun May 31 07:41:31 2009 Tags:

birds and the bees

Birds drink...bees buzz....and I admire their work from afar with an ice cold glass of sweet tea. How could a Sunday be any better than this?

Posted Sun May 31 17:42:50 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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