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

archives for 04/2017

Apr 2017
Myrtle Beach

Despite the outpouring of support from our kind readers (thank you!), Lucy's death so quickly on the heels of Artemesia's sent me and Mark reeling. On a whim, we filled extra feeders and waterers for the animals left behind, hopped in the car, and drove to the very closest beach to our farm --- Myrtle.

Forest Dunes Myrtle Beach

The oceanfront suite we nabbed at a steep discount felt strangely private despite being one of hundreds at Forest Dunes. Even better, opening the door onto our hefty balcony let in the sights, smells, and sounds of the sea. This is the closest I've ever slept to the beach and I reveled in snoozing to the soundtrack of waves breaking against the shore.


Watching the sun rise from my bed was quite a treat as well.

Ring-billed gull

Of course, Myrtle Beach isn't a very natural seashore. Wildlife sightings consisted of scads of gulls (three different species), a couple of plovers, a fish crow or two, and a few flocks of pelicans. Despite all that, I thoroughly enjoyed four long walks on the beach and one cold but invigorating swim in the ocean. Really, just sitting on that balcony would have been enough to make the drive worthwhile.

Cloudy Myrtle Beach

Two nights was just long enough to remind us that the world is full of peace and joy before we drove back to our waiting farm. Despite our ancient car, which finished the drive held together by two long pieces of gaffer's tape and a dilapidated shoelace, we feel so grateful to have chosen a lifestyle that allows us to take the time we need to fill the hole in our hearts. And thank you for following along on our journey!

Posted Sat Apr 1 07:57:03 2017 Tags:
Goat on spring grass

For the last month, I've been going through the motions with our goats --- feeding them, letting them out to graze, but not really allowing them deeply into my heart. Artemesia's loss was just too raw to consider repeating that experience anytime in the near future.

GoatsBut there's no point in including optional activities into your life unless you embrace them fully. So, after much soul-searching, I've decided to commit and try to make our herd back into a thing of beauty and joy.

Mostly, the decision is just a trick of the mind. But there will also be some changes involved.

First --- our little
wether (who has become the herd boss despite his minuscule size!) needs to learn to walk on a leash, to have his hooves clipped, and in general not to shy away from my approach. Next, we're gonna lick this parasite problem, starting with diatomaceous earth (already applied), ramping up to shaving, then hitting the chemical insecticides if necessary. And, finally, I'm putting our preordered doeling onto my list of things I'm anticipating with honest pleasure. Wanna help me dream up a name for a little, floppy-eared goat due to be born in the next week or so?

Posted Sun Apr 2 07:46:54 2017 Tags:
San Juan

Joey came over Saturday with a new card game to play. San Juan really hit the spot since it's fast and simple enough not to feel like a big commitment but complicated enough not to bore you after one or two iterations.

I feel so lucky that my brother gives talks at conferences all over the world just to be introduced to board games I might enjoy. (That is the purpose, right?) Please keep Cory Doctorow's cold to yourself, though. Thanks!

Posted Mon Apr 3 07:32:58 2017 Tags:
Edgar eating in background.

The goats spend most of their time in the barn on a rainy Monday like today.

A good time to catch up on hoof trimming.

Posted Mon Apr 3 15:40:58 2017 Tags:
Goat biting lice

The first step in dealing with Aurora's biters was to figure out what exactly is chewing on her. After combing through her hair in bright sunlight for a while, I finally discovered small, slow-moving brown spots. Clipping a bit of hair plus biter then photographing and zooming way in on the resultant image resulted in a diagnosis --- biting lice (Bovicola caprae/Damalinia caprae).

Alert goat

Various natural treatment methods exist for lice on goats, but all either seem too invasive to me or have proven ineffective. On the ineffective front, diatomaceous earth did absolutely nothing to hinder Aurora's lice despite brushing gobs of it into her hair for multiple days running. On the invasive front, soaking your animal in any liquid (including water) and keeping her wet for six hours will kill nearly all lice...good luck with that. Shearing is also effective at removing 30 to 50% of lice, with most of the rest naturally dying as they're exposed to weather...but we have a cold spell coming up and I don't think our goats would enjoy being sheared.

Resting goat

So, chemicals it is. The internet is mixed on mainstream methods of treatment, but one extension agent site says that the ivermectin or moxidectin dosages that work on sucking lice aren't effective against biting lice. Instead, they recommend treating with permethrin, which comes in various brand names and application patterns. Of these, Ultra Boss is labelled for use on goats as a pour-on (meaning you can apply in a strip down the animal's back like cat or dog flea meds). That seems the least invasive, so we're going to give it a shot --- treat once, then wait two weeks and treat again. Fingers crossed poor Aurora will stop stamping and scratching in the near future.

Posted Tue Apr 4 07:18:09 2017 Tags:
Wheel chair chicken tractor progress.

I made the walls for the wheelchair chicken tractor out of green plastic fencing.

It bends and rubs against the grass to keep predators out and the chickens in.

Posted Tue Apr 4 16:09:34 2017 Tags:
Spring seedlings

Even though Dogwood Winter is coming up this weekend, I decided to go ahead and set out my flat of onion seedlings to join the broccoli I transplanted early last week. Friday's task will be covering all and sundry with row covers so the freeze doesn't nip tender leaves. Here's hoping the forecast low of 32 doesn't go below 28 --- fruit blossoms would appreciate a reprieve!

Posted Wed Apr 5 06:59:42 2017 Tags:
Seagulls on the beach.
This was my favorite image from our mini vacation last week.
Posted Wed Apr 5 15:57:38 2017 Tags:
Rain barrel

I meant to drain the rain barrel last fall. But we were still using it, and every time I let the water run out Mark came along behind me and closed the spigot. I never remembered to tell him that it's good practice to leave the rain barrel empty for the winter, and at some point I just shrugged and let it ride.

And here's the deal --- nothing froze and broke. Now I'm wondering if winterizing the rain barrel is just one of those tasks people tell you to do that aren't really necessary. In fact, we enjoyed having the easily accessible outdoor winter water for goats, chickens, and for the aquaponics setup. So maybe next year I won't even put that task on my to-do list.

How about you? Do you drain your rain barrel for the winter? If not, have you had any problems as a result?

Posted Thu Apr 6 07:03:46 2017 Tags:
Wheelchair chicken tractor roof.

A recycled swimming pool makes for a decent chicken tractor roof.

A metal roof would've weighed too much.

Posted Thu Apr 6 15:38:56 2017 Tags:
Delousing goats

The quart of Ultra Boss we bought to deal with our goats' lice comes with a measurer in the bottle. But the product is more geared toward cattle than goats, so I decided to use a syringe instead to ensure I dosed our doe and wether correctly. Aurora got 2 mL of insecticide dripped along her back while tiny Edgar got only 1 mL. Hopefully a repeat in two weeks will kill any lingering biters and will leave our herd once more in tip-top condition.

Posted Fri Apr 7 07:10:12 2017 Tags:
Wheelchair chicken tractor nest box grinding.

Anna and I wanted to thank David Hicks for his astute comments and for clicking on the monthly donate button in our store link.

We really appreciate the value you put into the Walden Effect.

We were just talking this afternoon about how we plan to use some of the funds to try out a new Roll Out nest tray product that will slide into the bottom of the above plywood box for the wheelchair chicken tractor project.

Posted Fri Apr 7 15:57:26 2017 Tags:
Gardening books

Jennifer snapped this sighting of Weekend Homesteader in the wild at her local library. It made my day to see my 4.5-year-old book still plugging along and guiding new homesteaders, especially since my goal this year is to get back to basics and focus more on the tried and true.

Posted Sat Apr 8 08:04:52 2017 Tags:
Flicker user Gary J Wood.

Nayan makes a good point in her latest comment.

"My neighbor had made a heavy-duty tractor with hardware cloth etc. and it was pretty heavy. The raccoons got into it anyhow and ate every... single... adult... chicken. How you do keep predators away?

We have come to the conclusion that the risk is worth the value for better quality eggs. If the predator pressure gets too high then maybe we'll build a Fort Knox type of chicken coop and bring bugs to the chickens which will involve another level of time and effort.

Image credit goes to flickr user garyjwood.

Posted Sat Apr 8 15:46:46 2017 Tags:
Picking rhubarb

While covering up strawberries and spring seedlings in preparation for a freeze, I suddenly couldn't recall whether or not lush new rhubarb growth needs to be protected. So I headed to the internet for an answer.

What I found was information I hadn't been looking for. Did you realize that the problematic oxalic acid in the leaves of rhubarb moves down into the stems during freezes? In other words, even if you don't need to cover the plants during spring freezes (which seems to be the case --- no visible damage at 27 degrees), you might want to pick any stems you're interested in eating beforehand. Rhubarb crumble --- a new tradition for Dogwood Winter.

Posted Sun Apr 9 08:03:20 2017 Tags:
Close up of quick hoop lettuce in April.
Our quick hoop lettuce will soon be ready for salad time.
Posted Sun Apr 9 15:05:52 2017 Tags:
Anna Lucky miss
Apple blossoms

I think we might have gotten lucky with this current cold snap. Only the William's Pride apple blossoms were open, and enough flowers remained unfurled that even that variety will likely still set fruit.

Now to start crossing our fingers that we can weather one more month with no hard freezes cold enough to nip incipient fruit. The long-range weather forecast is looking good, but who knows what might change between now and May 15!

Posted Mon Apr 10 07:33:22 2017 Tags:
Wheelchair chicken tractor nest box.

The wheelchair chicken tractor is designed to dock up to a moveable rectangle run that can be moved each morning along with the tractor.

Posted Mon Apr 10 16:03:31 2017 Tags:
Vegetable seedlings

With the frost danger past, it's time to set out the rest of the cold-hardy seedlings. Everything pictured above hit the garden Monday except the basil and peppers. The peas were a bit root-bound, but I'm hoping they'll expand out into new ground anyway. In a few weeks, I'll have to check back and see if I can tell the difference between the direct-seeded peas and the transplanted starts that I used to fill in the gaps.

Posted Tue Apr 11 07:28:06 2017 Tags:
Roll out nest box tray installed into a wheelchair chicken tractor.

This new roll out nest tray was 22 dollars with shipping.

It's got an angle that makes eggs roll out into the tray under the flap.

It's part of a plastic nest box with a perch but I wanted to build my own box.

Posted Tue Apr 11 16:06:42 2017 Tags:
Frog metamorphasis

One of my Green Frog tadpoles started transforming on me late last week. I'd actually barely seen the tadpoles since they tended to hide in the fake vegetation, steering clear of the more active fish. But as this guy grew legs, he came out to visit the front of the tank.

Fork frog

Then, Tuesday morning, he was treading water at the surface. "I have lungs now!" he told me. "Give me somewhere to crawl out and hop around!"

Rather than changing the tank itself, I fished the baby frog out with a fork and gave him a sky pond to hang out in. Looks like warm, high nutrient water was all he needed to beat the rest of his species at transformation by two solid months.

Posted Wed Apr 12 07:15:22 2017 Tags:
Hauling winch with garden wagon.

I managed to get the Kubota stuck yesterday in the same place it was stuck before.

It only took about a half hour to haul the Super Winch to the spot and pull us out.

Posted Wed Apr 12 16:35:13 2017 Tags:
Wild geranium

Hot weather followed directly behind last week's cold spell. Suddenly, leaves and flowers were springing out all over, so I grabbed my camera and prepared to document the show.

Chewing goat

Unfortunately, I made the mistake of bringing the herd along with me. "What fun!" said Artemesia, gnawing on frost-sensitive buckeye leaves that miraculously survived Dogwood Winter. The trouble with going out to photograph nature with goats on your heels is you have to act fast or they'll eat your subject matter.

Posted Thu Apr 13 07:50:50 2017 Tags:
Wheelchair chicken tractor

I recycled some fabric off an old shade umbrella to keep our chickens cool inside.

Posted Thu Apr 13 15:47:19 2017 Tags:
Anna Clay class
Wheel-thrown pottery

Less than a month later, clay class is over --- I'm so sad to see it go! Six sessions on the wheel was just long enough for me to remember how to create vessels of various shapes and sizes, but not long enough to get the itch out of my system. Here's hoping Mark can get the rusted guts of a kick wheel out by the barn up and running before I go into withdrawal.

Pottery bear

Spotty glazesI did a little hand-building too, but most of those pieces haven't yet been fired. One of my earliest efforts, a little black bear, came out nicely...but is about as hard to photograph as Huckleberry. I'll see if I can't get better shots of my other pieces once they're glazed and done.

Posted Fri Apr 14 07:31:31 2017 Tags:
Anna pulling the new wheelchair chicken tractor.

The addition of a front handle makes the wheelchair chicken tractor easier to pull than to push by making it easy to lift the front up an inch.

Posted Fri Apr 14 15:26:40 2017 Tags:
Weeding with goats

This is the time of year when our farm undergoes its own sort of time change. Afternoons are already getting too hot to make outdoor work fun. So we swap our inside and outside tasks, taking to the garden before lunch and enjoying interior cool during the sweltering afternoons. I may even have to hook up the sprinklers shortly if this hot spell continues!

Posted Sat Apr 15 06:42:09 2017 Tags:

Wheelchair chicken tractor roof can now open and close.
The wheelchair tractor roof latches in the front so it can open for easy access.

Posted Sat Apr 15 15:49:39 2017 Tags:
Camera shy

Joey hosted an awesome late birthday/housewarming party Saturday. Much fun was had by all, although some of the participants were a little camera shy.


The food was also the entertainment, courtesy of Joey's homemade charcoal.

Mother and daughters

I mostly ran around enjoying the soft spring grass, which seems about a week further along than it is on our farm. But I took time out to enjoy Maggie's banjo plucking and to visit with friends and family new and old.

Laughing grillmaster

Thanks for the invitation, Joey...and for being a good sport about letting me put multiple photos of you up on the blog.

Posted Sun Apr 16 07:39:56 2017 Tags:
Greenhouse frame at Joey's.

Anna's brother Joey offered to give us his greenhouse frame if we break it down and haul it off.

The pieces seem to break apart into sections you can fit into a truck.

I think it's a project that will be late Summer or Fall.

Posted Sun Apr 16 16:21:03 2017 Tags:
Apple blossom

Those of you considering variety and rootstock selection for apples might get a kick out of some numbers from our three-year-old apple espaliers. These trees were all grafted by me in April 2014, then they were set out into their forever homes that fall. Here's the data:

  • Dead: Liberty (M7), King David (M7), Kidd's Orange Red (M7)
  • Not doing well: Honeycrisp (MM111)
  • Blooming: Winesap (M7), Early Harvest (MM111)
  • Good but vegetative: Pound Pippin (MM111), Red Delicious (MM111), Wolf River (MM111), Winesap (MM111), Chestnut Crab (M7)
Apple espalier

Based on this data, I suspect that M7 rootstock isn't quite cold hardy enough for our farm, at least not if I plant up against the hillside where very little winter sun hits. On the other hand, I wouldn't be surprised if the M7 Winesap is an early bloomer because of its rootstock (as opposed to the Early Harvest, which is noted for precocious bearing).

Honeycrisp, if I recall correctly, was hit hard by cedar apple rust last summer. I think I meant to pull the tree out, actually, but it was granted a stay of execution until this year. That's a variety problem not a rootstock problem, and despite how much Mark loves the apples, I wouldn't plant a Honeycrisp again in a no-spray orchard.

The other varieties seem vigorous and happy. Maybe next year, even those on MM111 will bloom!

Posted Mon Apr 17 07:11:10 2017 Tags:
Chicken run out of PVC.

The new PVC chicken run for the wheelchair chicken tractor is 10 feet long and 3 feet wide.

Posted Mon Apr 17 16:03:07 2017 Tags:
Wet goats

We're making slow but sure progress with Edgar. Delousing was quite effective, with his fur finally starting to look less rough and scraggly. I suspect the kelp he's been scarfing like candy might also be implicated in his more healthful appearance.

Meanwhile, we were able to trim his hooves relatively easily (although it was a two-person job) and he's okay with a leash now Dwarf goat(although he gets scared every time I put one on). These are definitely moves in the right direction.

On the other hand, our little wether is still far from the health level I expect in my goats. He came with a slight cough, which is still present, and his manure has never come out in solid pellets the way it should. Both could be symptoms of various kinds of worms...or could be as simple as allergies and eating too much lush spring greenery.

Regardless, copper is next on my treatment regimen, and the fresh browse that is starting to fill most of his diet should help with general body tone. Maybe in another month, skittishness will be the only factor proving that Edgar wasn't always our goat.

Posted Tue Apr 18 08:16:03 2017 Tags:
Installing a pull rope on the chicken run.

A rope on each end of the PVC chicken run will make it easy to pull into place.

Posted Tue Apr 18 16:15:45 2017 Tags:
Pea seedlings

Every day this week has offered what I like to call "seedling rain." Less than a quarter of inch of liquid falling over the course of twenty-four hours, the gentle drizzle and overcast conditions perfect for baby vegetables.

Wet broccoli plant

The conditions tempt me to transplant rather than pot up the rest of the seedlings still stuck under lights indoors. But we have four solid weeks until our frost-free date and I don't trust the long-range forecast enough to set out tomatoes, peppers, and basil. Instead, I just watch the gentle rain perk up March-transplanted peas and broccoli and enjoy the ground getting a little easier to weed.

Posted Wed Apr 19 07:42:51 2017 Tags:
Honda lawn mower in the box.

After much research we decided to go with a Honda self propelled lawn mower.

We got it at Home Depot which started giving military discounts like Lowes.

Posted Wed Apr 19 15:28:53 2017 Tags:
Developing gooseberries

When I moved the surviving blueberries and gooseberries downhill from the ultra-shady spot where they originally lived, I was a bit concerned that such mature bushes wouldn't survive being transplanted. So I pruned them harder than usual, removing perhaps a third of the top growth. Then I waited to see what would happen.

Blueberry blossoms

So far, so good. The plants old enough to bear fruit are indeed blooming copiously and the tender new leaves show no problems yet. It'll be awfully nice to have the fruit so close to the back door for daily picking, and I can already tell I'm going to get three times the pleasure despite cutting the planting size back by a factor of four. Now that's math I can get behind.

Posted Thu Apr 20 07:17:42 2017 Tags:
Honda 190 lawn mower day one.

The new Honda mower was easy to set up and even easier to start.

Anna got it going on the first pull with little effort.

The bigger wheels and extra power is a good match for our overgrown patches of weeds we like to call a lawn in between sections of the garden.

Posted Thu Apr 20 15:30:24 2017 Tags:
Potting up

What better gardening activity is there for a rainy day than potting up? I guess most people don't actually do the work in the rain....

Mixing potting soil

Even though I've changed my loyalties from stump dirt to storebought potting soil for the starting stage, I'm still content with homegrown options for potting up. Half stump dirt and half well-aged horse manure gives hungry plants plenty of nutrients while waiting for frost danger to pass. And, at this age, there's no worry left about damping off.

Posted Fri Apr 21 07:05:39 2017 Tags:

Wheelchair chicken tractor day one.
The wheelchair chicken tractor chickens seem to like their new home.

They spent the morning testing any possible escape routes and settled down to happy grazing in the afternoon.

Posted Fri Apr 21 15:21:49 2017 Tags:
Honda mower

Now that everyone's done drooling over Mark's new mower, I thought it might be helpful to share our thought processes in choosing the new tool. A homestead like ours, with grassy aisles between permanent garden beds covering a couple of acres, needs a mower small and nimble enough to dive into nooks and crannies...and preferably hefty enough to cut thick weeds and power up slick hills without burning out or breaking its handlers. Here are the mowers we've considered and/or tried.

Craftsman mowerThe Craftsman 917388571 was our farm's second mower (replacing an ancient mower that literally exploded one day when I asked it to do things mowers shouldn't be asked to do). What I loved about this mower: it ran with minimal upkeep for eight years after being purchased used and was easy enough for me to start until the final season. What we didn't like so much: pushing it up hills and around corners could wear you out, especially in the heat. Meanwhile, as the Craftsman aged it seemed to go through flywheel shaft keys and blades like candy despite there being fewer and fewer obstructions left in its path.

Swisher mowerIn fall 2014, I loosened the purse strings and we upgraded to a Swisher. Mark was hoping that the string cut would handle our rough terrain without so many flywheel problems and he also thought a self-propelled mower would make grass-cutting a breeze. I'll admit that I detested this mower from day one. The string flung blades of grass into my garden beds, requiring much more washing of our harvest (and making leaf lettuce completely unpalatable), and the string also resulted in a rougher cut that wasn't fun on bare feet. I couldn't start the machine either, so when it was my turn to mow I stuck with the Craftsman.

Troy-Bilt mowerOnce Mark gave up on the dream of the Swisher, we put our heads together and tried to figure out if there was a mower that would do what we each wanted. At first, we considered a Troy-Bilt WC33. The price tag was daunting, but such a hefty machine seemed like it might be a good idea, especially with the electric start, self-propulsion, and excellent reviews. But then I read deeper and realized that there was no way I could manage the beast with my moderate upper-body strength. Luckily, Mark was willing to compromise.

Self-propelled mowerWe settled on the Honda HRX217K5VKA because it looked small enough for me to maneuver and boasted the best reviews of any of the same-class mowers. After taking it for a test drive, I have to admit, I'm sold. The auto-choke, easy-start system almost seems like a magic trick --- I've never had a two-stroke engine that I could rev up without even feeling it in my yanking arm. The self-propulsion really makes a difference in our hilly terrain (yes, Mark was right about that), and at the same time the design makes it easy to go manual in extremely tight quarters.

Of course, to pay for itself, the Honda will need to last at least a decade. Here's hoping our new mower will go the distance!

Posted Sat Apr 22 07:30:05 2017 Tags:
Small solar panel window mounting.

Anna's brother Joey has a discovered an easy way to mount a lightweight solar panel to the underside of his underground house.

Posted Sat Apr 22 14:55:34 2017 Tags:
Roasting asparagus

On the sixth straight day of rain, the creek finally started to rise. The asparagus responded a few days earlier, beginning to provide whole meals of spears around day three. Tenacious weeds loosened their grip on the earth on day four. And on day five, trees and bushes sudden seemed twice as green.

Gotta love spring rains after a dry spell!

Posted Sun Apr 23 07:53:17 2017 Tags:
Wheelchair chicken tractor water access.

I mounted a 5 gallon bucket EZ miser to the back of the wheelchair chicken tractor.

The weight helps to balance out the heavy nest box in front.

Posted Sun Apr 23 15:36:49 2017 Tags:
Wet grapes

At a certain point, the world is so wet that even Edgar doesn't want to go out and graze. So the herd calls in takeaway.
Blurry goats
"I'd like a spring leaf medley," Aurora told me. "Some elderberry, some pear prunings, a bit of willow, maybe a small side order of honeysuckle and buckeye."

"And make it snappy," Edgar added. Did I really hear him mutter "It's hard to find good help nowadays" under his breath?

Posted Mon Apr 24 07:18:22 2017 Tags:
Another PVC chicken run to add to the first one.

We decided to add another 10 foot PVC run to the wheelchair chicken tractor.

I thought about making a long 20 foot PVC run but felt like it might be hard to move.

Posted Mon Apr 24 15:56:33 2017 Tags:
Chicken tractor

Even though we knew it would slightly overload the new chicken tractor with docking run, we put all nine coop hens inside so we wouldn't have more than two chicken areas to monitor each day. That was a bit rough on the flock since the skies opened up and proceeded to pour for the next several days, but the girls seem to have stayed pretty dry while coming out to graze between showers.

The roll-out nest box, to our surprise, has been the least successful part of the undertaking. Without straw or a nest egg in the box, most of the hens have been ignoring the structure and laying on the ground instead. Mark's thinking of glueing a golf ball inside in hopes we can talk the hens into utilizing the roll-out option. In the meantime, we've been gathering muddy eggs out of the yard.

Posted Tue Apr 25 07:04:23 2017 Tags:
Grazing pod attachment with old plastic trash can.

I attached a lightweight plastic trash can to the docking end of the new PVC grazing pod extension.

That makes it easy to push it through a hole in the fence material to join the two runs.

Posted Tue Apr 25 16:06:35 2017 Tags:
Raindrops on oxalis

This week's flood didn't quite match our biggest one ever, but it came close. Over five inches during a week (half in the last twenty-four hours) is nothing to sneeze at.

Flooded floodplain

The floodplain is so far underwater that it feels like one huge, still lake.

Root waterfall

Mark was surprised that the smaller creek didn't roar as loudly as it usually does during flood times. After some reconnaissance, I figured out why --- the part of the creek closest to our core homstead is part of the lake. I had to walk a ways upstream to find flowing water.


In the process, I discovered a very heartening sight --- rocks! This small creek, for some reason, had worn itself down to bare mud Creek rocksover most of its length long before we moved in. The result is relentless erosion that keeps cutting the bottom of the creek deeper every year.

Not so any more, at least for the upper expanses. Rocks as big as my fist were carried down by the floodwaters and deposited in bends and pools. Maybe another big flood or two will fix the bottom of the downstream portion of the creek as well?

Wet robin

Anyone want to take bets on how soon the floodwaters recede sufficiently to let us bring home some fresh groceries? Good thing the freezers are still pretty full!

Posted Wed Apr 26 07:35:44 2017 Tags:
Anna kayaking out to parking area.
Anna kayaking out to the parking area for a grocery run.
Posted Wed Apr 26 15:15:10 2017 Tags:
Anna Routed
Hummingbird on a grape trellis

Although we did eventually make it across the creek Wednesday, our first attempt was a failure.

Homemade paddle"If I just had a paddle, I think it would be safe to kayak across the floodplain while the water is so dispersed," I told Mark Wednesday morning. Within fifteen minutes, he'd created me a paddle out of a flipper (thanks, Rose Nell!), a furring strip, and some duct tape.

Unfortunately, when we embarked on our adventure, Mark immediately saw the flaw in my plans. Despite flood waters receding about three vertical feet in the last twenty-four hours, I still couldn't reach the kayak using hip waders.

All it took was a little more time, though, to achieve our goal. By 1 pm, the creek had gone down another foot and Mark and I together were able to retrieve the kayak we'd stashed by the creek. He hoisted it into a tree to empty out the water (a difficult feat when knee-deep in the drink), and we even discovered that we'd been smart enough to leave a paddle stashed inside. Maybe next time we'll get yet smarter and park the flood-water transportation device by the barn!

Posted Thu Apr 27 07:10:27 2017 Tags:
Wheelchair chicken tractor night moves.

Moving the wheelchair chicken tractor at night is easy when everybody is roosting.

Posted Thu Apr 27 15:50:03 2017 Tags:
Uncovering a fig tree

We tried two new methods of protecting our fig trees last fall. The one I apparently forgot to blog about involved bending a young fig down so its branches sat directly on the ground, then piling old garden weeds on top to produce an insulative layer above which I layered a tarp for waterproofing. Despite reports that this is the preferred method of winter-protecting a fig outside its hardiness zone, our wet soil turned the attempt into a failure --- anywhere fig branches touched the ground resulted in dead wood.

On the other hand, our hay porcupine worked like a charm. Granted, this past winter was warmer than usual, so it's not an entirely fair comparison. But every branch survived and many are pushing out new leaves. If I ever have that much leftover hay or straw, I'll definitely repeat the trick again!

Posted Fri Apr 28 07:20:32 2017 Tags:
Roll out nest box working to keep eggs clean.

The roll out nest box has proven itself to be a major, major innovation.

Our eggs have never been so clean.

It's helped to alert us to a problem hen who has figured out how to peck at an egg from the nest. She can barely reach that far and must've been doing it before the roll out nest box.

Posted Fri Apr 28 15:58:51 2017 Tags:
Washing dirt off seedling roots

When I potted up my summer seedlings a week ago, I pulled out a few basil plants along with a pepper and tomato to go in the aquaponics setup. First, I carefully washed most of the dirt off their roots...

Aquaponic tomato

...then I inserted the plants into the growing bed.

A week later, all are still alive, and the tomato especially is thriving. I think this might actually be a better way of planting into a grow bed than starting seeds directly in rock wool --- the on/off cycle of the water flushing through the bed is a little rough on young seedlings and seems to be more appropriate for mid-sized plants.

Now to see if these newcomers will live where everything except celery has thus far failed to thrive.

Posted Sat Apr 29 06:50:13 2017 Tags:
Installing a handle on the wheelchair chicken tractor.

The wheelchair chicken tractor is even easier to move with this shiny new handle.

Posted Sat Apr 29 15:23:26 2017 Tags:

I spent the day Saturday at another excellent sheep and goat workshop organized by the local Extension Service. This one was specifically about internal parasites, and I came home with a FAMACHA card so I can test for barberpole-worm infestations the easy way on my home turf.

You'll need to attend a workshop yourself if you'd like your own card, but I'll share an update on the efficacy of chemical and non-chemical dewormers in a later post. Stay tuned!

Posted Sun Apr 30 07:13:40 2017 Tags:
Roll out nest box with eggs in it and flap up.

I caught the egg eating hen in the act of trying to get to the eggs and closed her off to the rest of the flock.

We were not ready to retire a chicken on the weekend so I painted some of her back feathers with white spray paint so we'll know who she is.

Posted Sun Apr 30 16:50:35 2017 Tags:

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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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