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

archives for 05/2017

May 2017
Dewormer resistance

As I learned the hard way, you can use all kinds of holistic methods to keep sheep and goats healthy but at some point you'll end up having to rely on pharmaceuticals. Although it wasn't our issue last year, the most common problem requiring that step in our region is internal parasites --- worms.

The trouble is, dewormers have been used with such wild abandon in the U.S. that many don't work any longer. The worst offender --- barberpole worm --- was found to be resistant to three of the four classes of dewormer in every farm studied last year in Virginia and Georgia. Only the nicotinic agents (Levamisole) were still effective in that study, and even that class only worked in 30% of Georgia farms and 50% of Virginia farms. The benzimidazoles (such as Safeguard) and the macrocyclic lactones (such as Ivomec and Cydectin) are now useful only for lesser parasites such as tapeworms.

Luckily, there are a few methods available to make supposedly ineffective drugs more effective. First of all --- don't use them! The alternatives mentioned last year are still a good first step, along with pasture rotation. And, of course, you should use a FAMACHA test so you'll only treat individuals that have a high worm load.

Black-faced sheep

But what if you have a sheep or goat that is dangerously anemic due to barberpole worms...and your farm is showing resistance to all of the available drugs? First of all, make sure you're dosing properly. Even though it doesn't say so on the bottle, goats have a higher metabolism than sheep and should be given twice as high a dose on a body-weight basis as sheep should (or 1.5 times as much for Levamisol). Using less just speeds up dewormer resistance on your farm.

Second, you can prolong the efficacy of certain drugs even if there's already some resistance to the drug on your farm in a few different ways. Keeping your animal off feed for twenty-four hours before dosing will make the drug more effective since food dilutes the dewormer. Second, you can give a full dose of Safeguard then repeat in twelve hours, which was shown in one study to increase the kill rate of the dewormer from 50% to 92%. (With Levamisol, you'll want to wait 24 hours before repeating, while repeating didn't prove effective for the other classes.)

Finally, you can double up different classes of drugs to kill off a lot more worms. For example, if parasites on your farm are resistant enough to three different drugs so each one only kills 60% of the worms, dosing with all three drugs at once will eliminate over 90% of the problem --- pretty good for dewormers that you probably considered useless on your farm!

I hope the worms never get bad enough on our farm that I have to use this information...but I'm posting anyway in case either I (or you) do go there. Good luck...and please never deworm willy-nilly without testing each animal first to see if he or she needs it.

(Information courtesy of Dr. Dahlia O'Brien, Small Ruminant Specialist for the Virginia Extension Service...and really good speaker. If you get a chance to attend one of her workshops, I highly recommend it!)

Posted Mon May 1 06:18:09 2017 Tags:
Fixing the problem of the lid falling off.

The 5 gallon bucket waterer got a little warped creating a lid falling off problem.

A galvanized wire loop should hold it in place when we move it at night.

Posted Mon May 1 15:13:49 2017 Tags:

Many gardening shortcuts create more work in the long run, but a few make the cut for our homestead. First up --- solarization season is upon us again, with low-lying weeds like chickweed dying in a week under clear plastic. (Yes, this is the same dropcloth I used to paint our living room last winter. No waste here!)

After flame weeding

Meanwhile, I finally found an effective use for the Weed Dragon. The flame weeder did next to nothing against established weeds, and I usually depend on mulch to kill off bad seedlings. The exception is in the asparagus beds, where soil stays bare for over a month during harvest season. Weed pressure is terribly high there as a result...but perhaps not any more?

I weeded the asparagus bed well two weeks ago, but new seedlings popped up in short order. Not a problem with the Weed Dragon on hand! Just pick every spear, flame the bed hard, and the soil is once again nearly weed-free. Only problematic runnering grasses are still coming up. Maybe another round or two of flame weeding will do the trick on those?

Posted Tue May 2 06:57:58 2017 Tags:
Roof repair with elastic material.
I like this new Elastomeric roof coating over the older black stuff.
Posted Tue May 2 15:16:06 2017 Tags:
Anna Potential
Ripening strawberry

The first strawberries are just barely blushing pink...

Pea flower

...the first peas are beginning to bloom...

Hardy kiwi flower buds

...and the hardy kiwis have more than a few bloom buds this year. If the upcoming Blackberry Winter plays nice, we may enjoy some tasty treats later in the month.

Posted Wed May 3 07:23:49 2017 Tags:
Chickens grazing in the new PVC run.

We retired our problem egg eating hen only to realize she had a partner in crime.

The new plan is to try to collect the eggs as they get laid in hopes of the criminal hen forgetting about the egg eating process.

Posted Wed May 3 16:00:26 2017 Tags:

Biochar beside an onion seedlingDo you remember the biochar craze from a few years ago? Everyone from Mother Earth News to the Extension Service was touting charcoal's benefits as a soil amendment, and if you're like us you probably tried it in your own garden.

After a few trials, my conclusion was that biochar didn't provide any visible benefit to our soil beyond a very slight warming effect for extremely early spring crops. And, to my surprise, science now backs that assertion up. A comparison of over a thousand biochar studies concluded that biochar has no discernable benefit in temperate regions (although it does help a lot in tropical soils where high heat and rainfall mean that organic matter decomposes and nutrients leach away in short order).

Sifting biocharSo will I stop sifting charcoal out of my wood ashes to apply to the garden? Probably not. Like any other source of organic matter, biochar improves soil texture over the long run, and processing the waste from our wood stove only takes about half an hour per year.

But I'm glad I didn't burn wood specifically for the purpose of creating biochar. After all,
hugelkultur builds soil fertility even more and is a good fit for already punky wood. So bury that wood instead of burning it if you want to boost your soil the best!

Posted Thu May 4 07:00:09 2017 Tags:
Strawberry bloom close up.
Close up of strawberry bloom in the first week of May.
Posted Thu May 4 16:00:13 2017 Tags:
Unpruned hardy kiwi

Our three hardy kiwi bushes have been in the ground for nine long years without offering a single fruit. We did see a few flowers in 2014, but none appeared on the male plant and the female flowers eventually dropped off. I keep saying we're going to rip the plants out...but Mark likes them and they're very little work, so I've left them alone.

This past winter, I started wondering whether the problem could be our winter-pruning method. Were we cutting off all the blooms before they had time to set fruit? To test that hypothesis, I didn't prune at all this past winter...and to my surprise I did indeed see numerous flower buds on the male and on one female this spring!

Kiwi watersprout

After carefully pruning off excess growth while leaving the flower twigs behind, though, I've decided that I probably wasn't removing all of the flower buds in previous rounds of pruning. Because what I mostly cut off is long, vigorous vegetative growth like this...

Kiwi flowering on a watersprout

...but in only one instance did I find kiwi blooms emanating from what I would have considered a watersprout-to-be-pruned.

Hardy kiwi flower buds

Instead, most flowering shoots are on small, sheltered branches hidden deep within the kiwi bush.

So I'm back to hypotheses A and B, both of which revolve around problematic late spring frosts. Either the April and May freezes that inevitably nip back the kiwis' spring growth have slowed the maturity of the vines, or the plants have been ready to fruit for years but their flower buds are what get nipped during those late freezes. Maybe we'll get lucky and bypass the possible frost this weekend so the plants can avoid either of those issues for one year?

Posted Fri May 5 07:00:06 2017 Tags:
PVC installation process.

A hole in the top of the PVC run allows for the insertion of the roofing structure.

An exterior screw going in from the side and biting into both pipes holds it in place.

Posted Fri May 5 16:00:12 2017 Tags:
Moss pot

My second finished piece from clay class was a tiny pot too small for any plant except moss (and a sprig of sedum). I had fun picking three species of moss out of the woods then adding a bit of fallen lichen to complete my miniature arrangement. Surprisingly, all inhabitants have thus far survived on daily drips of water in a low-light corner of my office. The moss garden --- even smaller and more intricate than a bonsai.

Posted Sat May 6 07:00:10 2017 Tags:
Strawberry fruits
Strawberries are starting to reach the fruiting stage of deliciousness.
Posted Sat May 6 15:57:13 2017 Tags:
Flower bed

Happy pea gardenerMark and I autoscheduled our posts, filled the feeders and waterers, then snuck away for a quick trip south to visit Daddy and Barbara. The visit was just what the doctor ordered...and not just because South Carolina strawberries are in full swing and I was treated to a homemade/homegrown strawberry pie. (Yum!)

Two types of chives

For family members --- I highly recommend visiting this five-star resort as soon as possible. Two thumbs up!

For those of you who actually read this blog to learn about homesteading, I came home with a start of garlic chives (shown on the right above, with normal chives on the left for comparison). This perennial looks like a great addition to the zone 3 to 10 herb garden since it blooms in summer (meaning you can pick garlic chives while the other variety is blooming in spring) and it apparently thrives even in a dry climate. Now to see how well garlic chives do in our swamp!

Posted Sun May 7 07:24:31 2017 Tags:
Garlic with blue sky.
Our garlic crop is doing well in the soggy forest garden soil.
Posted Sun May 7 15:52:39 2017 Tags:
Strawberry rainbarrel

The other tidbit I wanted to share from my South Carolina visit pertained to rainwater harvesting. Daddy's climate is very drought-prone and his sandy soil means that whatever rainfall hits the earth is gone in short order. Since he uses a well for household water, there's a limit to how much he can divert for irrigation purposes. Enter rainwater catchment, both in the form of the rain barrel shown above...

Rainwater pond

...and by channeling gutter overflow directly into his water garden.

The oasis Daddy and Barbara have created using minimal water is truly inspiring. I hope you enjoy seeing rainwater catchment in action!

Posted Mon May 8 06:49:44 2017 Tags:
Pet carrier assembly.

The Petmate two door top load kennel was easy to put together and lightweight.

We took Huckleberry in for a vet visit today. The doctor says he's fine.

Much better than the pillow case we used last time.

Posted Mon May 8 15:18:01 2017 Tags:
Talking turkey

Our garden is full of life in the spring...just perhaps not the kind of life I was hoping for. This turkey, for example, has been showing up every other day for over a week. She'd better not go after our strawberries because there's still a week of spring turkey season left. Just saying....

Posted Tue May 9 06:51:53 2017 Tags:
Winch riding on the hood.

We decided to ratchet strap the Super Winch up front in case we need it again.

Posted Tue May 9 14:46:50 2017 Tags:
Pepper transplants

We survived Blackberry Winter unscathed! The weekend was a close call, with a low of 33, but it looks like 2017's ultra-early spring is going to continue unabated. Time to set out all those seedlings that have been growing like gangbusters under our elevated sofa for the last couple of months.

Lasagna garden

The lunchbox peppers are loaded with bloom buds, so they were the first to hit the dirt. I set out transplants in a bit of an experimental/slapdash manner, though, so I hope they're able to get their feet under them and continue to grow.

Slapdash transplantThe bed they're in was very weedy kale two weeks ago, at which point I mowed the plants close to the ground then ran the chicken tractor across the soil. The result was somewhat scratched earth but with lots of living weeds still interspersed.

Next up, I topdressed copiously with half-rotted goat-barn bedding. Then I raked back spots to transplant the peppers into, laid down wet newspaper around the transplants and topped it all off with a healthy helping of straw. Lots of layers --- definitely a lasagna garden.

Now to see if the weeds die nicely and the half-rotted bedding is rich enough to feed my hungry peppers. If not, I've got six plants waiting in the wings as backup. Here's hoping I don't need them!

Posted Wed May 10 07:36:44 2017 Tags:
Wheelchair chicken tractor hen escapes.

One of our hens in the wheelchair chicken tractor has figured out how to escape.

I think it's a space under the nest box which needs to be fixed.

She's been staying close to her sisters and away from the garden and should be easy to herd back in after the flock gets roosted up for the night.

Posted Wed May 10 15:37:31 2017 Tags:
Bean seedlings

I gambled pretty hard on an early spring...although, in my defense, nature did too. Planting beans, corn, summer squash, and Warbler on grapevinecucumbers on April 24 means our first round of summer crops is already up and running.

Meanwhile, the grapevines on the shade trellis are growing like gangbusters (and attracting warblers to clean bugs off their leaves). Our Reliance vines gave us two small fruit clusters last year, but now they're coated in flower buds. I can hardly wait until the view out our front window is dripping with fruit!

Posted Thu May 11 07:14:55 2017 Tags:
PVC chicken feeder stage 1.

The plan for these PVC parts include a feeder for the wheelchair chicken tractor.

Posted Thu May 11 15:26:21 2017 Tags:
Ceramic wolf

Another round of finished pieces came out of the kiln this week. Some glazes worked better than others, but my wolf (perhaps more of a fox?) did pretty well...

Rose vase

...and so did this vase, just the right color for the roses now starting to bloom.

I think I have one more set of creations waiting to be fired, then I'll have to share paintings (if any of those end up blogworthy). After that, we get a short foray into stained glass, then this wonderful class will be complete.

Posted Fri May 12 06:25:51 2017 Tags:
Close up of yellow throated warbler.

We've had a regular visitor every day this week.

This yellow throated warbler has claimed our shade trellis as his own.

He seems to see his reflection in the window and tries to chase it away.

Posted Fri May 12 16:09:42 2017 Tags:
Rose gutter

Cutting back our 2017 garden to just the crops we really need has helped free up quite a bit of time around the farm. The result is a new tradition --- energy leak Fridays.


The idea is to take a few hours once a week to run through small tasks that aren't really important enough to go on the big list. Like, you know, cleaning the house. Or, as we did this week, fixing a problematic gutter so I could create a flower bed out of a spot that had been pure rose bush and weeds previously, then cleaning up the nearby herb bed as well.

It's astonishing how much joy I get out of having the areas I walk through most frequently in tip-top shape. Now to see how long the energy leak Friday tradition lasts.

Posted Sat May 13 06:57:37 2017 Tags:
Garter snake close up in the garden.

This garter snake has been living in the straw mulch of a patch of strawberries.

Maybe she could scare away some of the birds that swoop down for a quick snack.

Posted Sat May 13 14:59:09 2017 Tags:
Celery gardener

Happy Mother's Day to the world's greatest mom! Grower of celery, reader of books, and nurturer of every living thing nearby. I'm so lucky to have you in my life.

Mother and son

And Happy Mother's Day to my bonus mothers as well! Because you can never share too much love and I hit the jackpot when I added you to my cheer squad.

I hope every mother out there has a perfect day. Meanwhile, sons and daughters --- don't forget to call Mom!

Posted Sun May 14 07:21:14 2017 Tags:
Hens in the PVC tractor run.

I caught another egg eating hen in the act yesterday and isolated her.

Today is the first day in a while that we got eggs without any signs of hen eating.

Posted Sun May 14 15:13:09 2017 Tags:
Goats in the forest

When nearly two inches of rain push the creek up out of its banks yet again, the goats and I head to higher ground.

Goats on a log

"Oh boy, a wet log to climb on!" they exclaim as I cringe and hope they don't break a leg.

Walking goat

Woods grazing isn't as high calorie as yard grazing, but I can almost feel our little herd stocking up on hard-to-come-by micronutrients. Plus, there are fewer things more joyful than lounging in the forest with two exuberant goats.

Posted Mon May 15 07:37:16 2017 Tags:
PVC chicken feeder installation.

The wheelchair chicken tractor PVC feeder can hold half a gallon of laying pellets.

Posted Mon May 15 15:28:46 2017 Tags:
In-wall airconditioner

With 20/20 hindsight, I've concluded that a partial cause of last summer's stomach troubles was simply heat stress. We used to see only a few days each summer when highs exceeded 90...but last year we instead had to deal with weeks of that weather with no relief in sight. When similar highs began in April this year, I decided to lower my standards and buy an air conditioner.

Hanging air conditioner

Mark already has an AC in his man cave, so he knew exactly how to put one into odd spaces. In true Trailersteading style, he installed my unit by cutting a hole in the wall then chinking back in around it until the air conditioner became a permanent part of our living space. No air leakage there!

Although I felt exceedingly guilty when I turned the unit on the first time, I quickly realized two things. Using basic passive cooling techniques and setting the thermostat at 74 means the AC only runs for short intervals even on the hottest days. Plus, since my brain shuts down once my living space rises above about 83, the air conditioner has more than paid for itself by increasing my writing time. I suspect this will be another one of those modern conveniences I learn to long as we keep the energy use within reason.

Posted Tue May 16 06:50:00 2017 Tags:
Roll out nest box access door.

Sometimes the eggs won't roll down due to the tractor being on uneven ground.

That's why I decided to make this access door for a closer inspection.

Posted Tue May 16 16:28:00 2017 Tags:
Backing up

All of the horse manure we hauled in earlier in the year was gone by the beginning of May. And, unfortunately, the floodplain got wetter instead of drier during that time period.

Luckily, I've been hoarding goat-barn bedding in two big piles just outside the pastures. And Mark's careful driving made it easy to transport that incipient compost all the way across our core homestead to my garden. Looks like we'll hit our fertility goals until the end of the month. After that, the floodplain had better be passable again!

Posted Wed May 17 07:23:21 2017 Tags:
Outdoor shower set up.

We upgraded our outdoor shower set up.

The new arrangement reverses a hose splitter to control hot and cold levels.

Posted Wed May 17 15:00:35 2017 Tags:
Ripe strawberries

Like most edibles, strawberry plants love water. But irrigating them is a tricky endeavor because sugars decline dramatically for a day or so after watering.

My solution is to divide the garden into three zones. I pick all the ripe fruits in zone A on day 1, then I water zone A on day 2 while picking all the ripe fruits from zone B. Day 3 involves picking in zone C and watering in zone B, etc.

By the time I circle back around, the ground is moist and the strawberries are once again sunkissed and delicious. Yum!

Posted Thu May 18 06:06:37 2017 Tags:
Securing the big ladder to top of Kubota.

We loaded up the big ladder today for some off the farm climbing.

It rides nicely on top if both sides are secured firmly.

Posted Thu May 18 14:30:19 2017 Tags:
Fixing a roof

This appears to be the season for assessing leaky roofs --- three roofs in three weeks! Kayla's wins the prize for being the easiest to work on, with its nearly flat porch acting as a landing pad.

Everyone in our circle should be snug and dry for a while yet. But Mark still has most of a can of
elastomeric roof compound left, so I guess we'll be on call until it's all gone.

Posted Fri May 19 07:09:00 2017 Tags:
Close up of roof repair.

A close up view of the elastomeric roof repair.

I checked it after a week of setting and it seems to have bonded properly.

Posted Fri May 19 13:54:42 2017 Tags:
Late May garden

This is the time of year when planting, weeding, and harvesting begin to run together into one big green blob. After a month of kale, swiss chard, lettuce, and asparagus, suddenly the flood gates begin to open with the first big harvests of strawberries and broccoli.

Young apples

Meanwhile, snap peas will be ready to add to our salads next week, while raspberries and blueberries are getting big. Our tree fruits mostly got nipped once again despite a very early last frost, but a few trees have young fruits that are growing nicely. Such a bounty plumping up in our garden!

Posted Sat May 20 06:59:31 2017 Tags:
Using hand winch to load up heavy stove into Kubota.

The Kubota dump bed along with a good hand winch made loading up this heavy stove kind of easy.

Posted Sat May 20 14:52:10 2017 Tags:
Bumblebee pollinating kiwi

The hardy kiwis are finally blooming, and the bumblebees found them before I did! For those of you keeping track at home and waiting for your own vines to fruit, our kiwis have been in the ground for nine long years. So the report that hardy kiwis bear in two years from cuttings didn't quite pan out in our neck of the woods.

Male and female kiwi flowersOne of our female vines flowered two years ago, actually, but without a male flower no fruit was set. That's despite the stamens clearly visible in the female flower (shown at the top of the image on the right).

Now that we have male flowers (one of which I'm holding near the bottom of the photo), I can see the difference --- the males definitely go all-out on the pollen-production front. Fingers crossed this is the year we taste homegrown kiwi fruits!

Posted Sun May 21 07:04:41 2017 Tags:
Chickens in the wet mud of a garden bed.

It took a few days for our flock to learn how to use the new PVC chicken feeder, but once they did it they seem to be saving about 20 percent compared to the old method of tossing the feed in fresh grass of that morning.

Posted Sun May 21 15:11:14 2017 Tags:
Sugar sprint peas

Even after a decade, we're still trying to find the best edible-pod pea for our garden. But 2017 might be the year that makes the cut!

We started out growing Mammoth Melting Sugar, but those were really snow peas (to be eaten when the pod is flat) rather than sugar snaps (to be eaten when the pod is plump.) So we tried Sugarsnap and Super Sugar Snap, which did indeed give us that sweet crunch we were craving...but also quickly succumbed to a blight that wilted the plants from the bottom up before they were done bearing.

Enter Sugar Sprint. The pods are plump and sweet, the vines are short but prolific, and so far their reputed resistance to powdery mildew seems to be holding true. Maybe these will be the perfect peas for us?

Posted Mon May 22 07:51:49 2017 Tags:
Honda GCV 190 mower.

We've been using the new Honda GCV 190 mower a lot this month.

It's been flawless so far.

Starts on the first pull every time thanks to the Automatic Choke feature.

Posted Mon May 22 15:17:57 2017 Tags:
Sun OvenI've always been intrigued by sun ovens, but I have to admit my one childhood experiment with the topic turned me off. We lined the inside of a cardboard box with aluminum foil, put a sheet of plexiglass on top, then watched as our food...sat there.

Luckily, other experimenters were more successful. Paul Munsen from Sun Ovens International has developed a pretty fancy solar cooker, along with plenty of excellent techniques to ensure your meals come out tasty (and not stone cold). He sums his experiences up in free video seminars which cover everything from which type of pot to use and whether to preheat all the way up to using solar ovens for non-cooking tasks like purifying drinking water.

And, yes, I'll admit, he tries to sell you one of his sun ovens too (for a discount). But the information portion of the seminar is valuable in and of itself.

Which brings me to your opportunity to watch, ask questions, and learn. Mark and I are hosting an hour-long video seminar with Paul on Wednesday, May 31, starting at 7:00 p.m. Central Daylight Time, (8 p.m. EDT / 6 p.m. MDT / 5 p.m. PDT). It's free and by invitation only (although you can tell your friends if you want to join up together), so please head over here if you'd like to preregister.

See you there!
Posted Tue May 23 06:42:54 2017 Tags:
Egg eating hen caught in the act of trying to access roll out nest tray egg area.

I caught another egg eating hen today in the act of trying to access the egg area.

She's isolated for now to see if she's the only one.

Posted Tue May 23 16:19:54 2017 Tags:
Broccoli harvest

Cutting the size of our planting area in half and focusing on our predictably heavy producers has been a life-saver this spring. Last summer, I'd gotten to the point where the work-to-reward ratio in the garden was tipping toward "not worth it." But this year, mornings in the garden are delightful, full of planting, weeding, mulching, and harvesting crops that I'm 90% sure will make the journey from seed to plate without too much work on my part. Success!

Posted Wed May 24 06:56:15 2017 Tags:
Isolated hen in the kill coop.
I faced the chicken isolation coop so our egg eating hen could see her flock mates.
Posted Wed May 24 15:28:34 2017 Tags:
Rainy roses

First the roar of rain and wind tear across our homestead...then the backup battery begins beeping its countdown warning as the power goes out. Quickly, I shut everything off, wanting to save our few remaining ounces of juice for the bare necessities --- making blog posts and charging my kindle. Then I go out to pick some strawberries for supper, noticing how different the world sounds without power.

Posted Thu May 25 06:35:02 2017 Tags:
Adding to the grape vine trellis.

We added two eye level horizontal stretches of wire to train our front grapes on.

Posted Thu May 25 14:31:06 2017 Tags:
Freezing broccoli

Despite cutting back on most parts of the garden, we kept our broccoli plantings the same. They're just such a perfect crop --- tasty, productive, and easy to manage.

After gorging ourselves on huge heads all week, I packed 22 blanched pints away in the freezer for later. Two-thirds down and one-third to go!

Posted Fri May 26 07:09:52 2017 Tags:
PVC chicken feeder.

The recent storm we had was heavy enough to flood my new PVC chicken feeder.

I adjusted it to a drier location and added some side protection.

Posted Fri May 26 15:32:41 2017 Tags:
Grape flowers

Although training grapes outside our main bank of windows was intended as a way of shading the summer trailer, I've gotten just as much of a kick out of watching the plants through the seasons. Grape flowers are so small that I've always missed them in the past, but their windowside location means that I've had a front row seat as our Reliance vines break out into bloom this time around.

The visibility also means I noticed the first signs of phomopsis and snipped off the affected leaves and vines. Here's hoping that despite the near constant rain, I acted fast enough to keep this fungal disease in check.

Posted Sat May 27 06:57:33 2017 Tags:
Carpenter bee burrow into lumber.

Is there anything to do to prevent carpenter bees from tunneling into the porch?

Posted Sat May 27 15:18:09 2017 Tags:
Tree frog on window
...frogs are climbing the windows, begging to be let in.
Posted Sun May 28 07:01:29 2017 Tags:
Grape trellis wire support.

How is the new horizontal trellis stretch of wire supported?

A loop of wire supported at the top eye bolt comes down to hold the weight.

Posted Sun May 28 13:37:14 2017 Tags:
Mature broccoli plant

Several of you asked very astute questions on my broccoli post last week. Let's see if I can some up the answers all in one post.

In terms of variety selection, I haven't really hit a dud yet...but I also choose those that promise one big head (since you can always get multiple smaller heads later after cutting the main event). I've grown Packman, Marathon, and Blue Wind, and as I recall they all did great for me. Blue Wind is the variety we're growing this year.

Planting dates will vary widely depending on where you live and what type of spring you're experiencing. I've had best luck starting mine inside at the beginning of March, then transplanting into the garden as soon as there will be no lows below 28. This year, that date came early --- March 27.

Buggy broccoli

And then there are the questions none of you asked, but which I think are equally important to producing good broccoli. First --- food. Broccoli is a very hungry crop, so the more you can feed them the better. They also need full sun to put on those fast growth spurts before the bugs hit.

Which brings me to the biggest problem organic growers will have with broccoli --- caterpillars. The big green cabbage worms actually don't bug us much as long as we plant early and I squash the few I notice, but the less obvious southern cabbage worms can be a doozy. See that head in the second photo above with spaces between its florets? Southern cabbage worms have been eating it from the inside out, and they're a bear to clear out of the head in the kitchen too.

The solution to cabbage worms (assuming you don't want to spray insecticides) is planting early and keeping your garden crucifer-free in the summer months. If you can harvest your broccoli before the beginning of June, you probably won't have to deal with many southern cabbage worms. And if you pull the spring plants soon thereafter rather than letting them push out an extra floret or two throughout the summer months, cabbage worms won't be able to get a foothold on your garden and be ready to hit the ground running next year.

If all else fails, don't despair --- there's always the fall crop! Start seeds inside around the middle of June and you'll be eating another round of broccoli before you know it. Good luck!

Posted Mon May 29 06:42:24 2017 Tags:
Closing off half the PVC chicken tractor run with round plastic lid.

I had a hen escape on me when I was moving the wheelchair chicken tractor to a new spot last night.

Next time I'll wait till they are all roosted before moving it long distances.

Today we developed a new procedure to herd escaped chickens back in to a new flap in the back while the rest of the flock is secure in the other half of the run.

Posted Mon May 29 14:47:16 2017 Tags:
Mossy log

After installing an air-conditioner, I sat back...and watched the weather turn cool and wet. A low of 51 last week was enough to send me scurrying to the wood stove to burn some junk mail, and the goats turned grumpy as their dining was interrupted repeatedly by everything from sodden grass to actual storms. Good thing the weather cleared up at the end of the week so we could all enjoy the necessities --- a hike for me, gorging on dry plant matter for them.

Posted Tue May 30 06:43:17 2017 Tags:
Harbor Freight solar panels mounted on top of wood shed.

The recent power outage motivated me to find a place to mount our solar panels.

The red cable should be enough tension to handle moderate levels of wind.

Posted Tue May 30 15:39:20 2017 Tags:
Peas and strawberries

Our berry cascade is getting ready to change its melody. Strawberries are still rolling in but...

Red raspberry

...we ate the first red raspberry Sunday.

Ripening black raspberries

Meanwhile, black raspberry bushes are absolutely loaded and the first few fruits are beginning to blush red.

Blueberry pH problem

The surviving blueberries are similarly laden with young fruits despite their winter transplant. One of the three is showing an iron deficiency due to high pH, though, so I consulted The Ultimate Guide to Soil and ordered some iron sulfate to speed up the pH transition. (Yes, I do look for answers in my own books. That's the point of writing them, right?) 

Hardy kiwi fruits

Meanwhile, in the kiwi bower, petals are beginning to drop...and plump ovaries are being left behind. I'm still trying not to count my kiwis before they ripen, but conditions are looking good for a first harvest this year sometime in October.

Posted Wed May 31 06:35:34 2017 Tags:
Picture of Sun courtesy of Wikipedia.

I'm going to be hosting an online seminar about cooking with a solar oven tonight at 8 pm EDT.

I talked with Paul the other day and he seems very nice and confident in his product.

Please consider joining me if you've got the time and interest. There will be an opportunity to ask him questions and he's giving a discount on the oven he sells.

Image credit goes to Wikipedia.

Posted Wed May 31 15:36:44 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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