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

archives for 08/2018

Wheelbarrow of wood chips

Three months ago, we had unmulched aisles and a huge pile of Big pile of wood chipswood chips (right). Now two thirds of the aisles are mulched and the pile is all gone (above).

I've been very, very pleased with my mulched aisles, actually. The weeding pressure is dramatically reduced since there's no need to root out plants trying to creep from the aisles into the garden beds. And the unwatered perennials have done better than I thought they would during dry periods, presumably because of moisture held beneath the wood chips and accessible to plant roots.

I guess the only question left is --- how hard will I have to work to track down another dump-truck load of chipped trees? Living right beside the road has definitely helped my garden thrive!

Posted Wed Aug 1 06:00:40 2018 Tags:
Spiralize squash

What do you do when the squash take over?

Buy a spiralizer and try another half dozen recipes.
Posted Thu Aug 2 06:00:45 2018 Tags:
Fossil coral

Painted rockKayla's been telling me I need to try rock painting for months (years?), but I always smiled and nodded. However, a fossilized coral from Kelleys Island prompted me to find some supplies and give it a shot.

Of course Kayla was right --- painting rocks was scads of fun! Now to decide where to hide them....

Posted Fri Aug 3 06:00:54 2018 Tags:
Plate of parsley and tomatoes and cucumbers.

The conclusion after this Pot Luck dinner plate is that most folks don't like parsley.

Posted Sat Aug 4 06:00:28 2018 Tags:
Sunflower transplant

Summer transplants aren't optimal. But with a little TLC, plants often come through better than you'd think.

Cock's comb

I wasn't so sure these flowers Mark's mom thinned out of her garden would make it in the summer heat. But we got lucky and it rained for three days after planting. Add in a little supplemental handwatering and they all seem to be surviving. One cock's comb is even starting to bloom!

Posted Sun Aug 5 06:00:32 2018 Tags:
Yellow Soldier Fly grub in a compost tumbler.

Yellow soldier fly grubs having their way within our compost tumbler.

Posted Mon Aug 6 06:00:44 2018 Tags:
Buckwheat flowers

For most of the year, we've been barely building garden beds in time to fill them with productive plants. But in July we got a little ahead --- time to plant buckwheat!

Beds of cover crops

Germination was a bit spotty with only hand-watering, and I didn't put a kill mulch in the aisles until the buckwheat was already up so had to mulch pretty far in to kill all the weeds. Still, it's so satisfying watching the garden enrich itself!

Up this week --- filling any small gaps that won't be used this winter with oats. The garden finally feels like it belongs to me now that I'm planting cover crops.

Posted Tue Aug 7 06:00:33 2018 Tags:
Hobbit door at learning garden OU.

A nice Hobbit door protects the Ohio University learning and research garden.

Posted Wed Aug 8 06:00:29 2018 Tags:
Broccoli starts

Our second set of fall broccoli is outgrowing its pots and ready to hit the garden. But is the garden ready for it?

Planting broccoli in gaps

Eight of my 38 plants fit easily into gaps in the summer garden. Which left quite a few in need of a home.

Broccoli in halfway composted manure

The beds I'd intended for them are built from partially composted manure...which looks much less composted than I'd thought. I set out four test plants and will check back in a few days to see if broccoli is one of the plants that can handle such strong not-quite compost. Squash and raspberries, I've learned, can. Asparagus and blueberries cannot.

Posted Thu Aug 9 06:00:50 2018 Tags:
Columbus Art Museum

You can lead a driftwood horse to Art.....but you can't make him appreciate it.

Posted Fri Aug 10 06:00:51 2018 Tags:
Deer outside the garden

Deer licking lipsI take an inordinate amount of pleasure in watching the deer walk by the garden and stare at my vegetables.

This doe was literally licking her lips, but those brussels sprouts and squash are all mine!

Posted Sat Aug 11 06:00:37 2018 Tags:
Anna pretending to work at a book store

No....Anna did not get a job working at a book store.

She just likes to illustrate what it would be like to carry around all the books she keeps on her Kindle and why she now prefers Kindle over a hard copy.

Posted Sun Aug 12 06:00:25 2018 Tags:
Basket of peaches

I dropped by one set of foster peaches this past weekend to see how their pruning and thinning had done. Success! Actual ripe peaches.

Peach brown rot

Unfortunately, the taller limbs that I'd left in the interest of not pruning the tree too hard all at once (then hadn't thinned the fruits on since I couldn't reach them) were full of brown rot. I think I'll be brave and whack the top off the tree this winter, water sprouts or no water sprouts.

Posted Mon Aug 13 06:00:42 2018 Tags:
Anna and her Mom at museum.

We enjoyed the Kennedy Museum of Art so much we went back for a repeat visit.

Posted Tue Aug 14 06:00:41 2018 Tags:

waterlily flowers

Huckleberry didn't eat us, nor did we fall into a hole. We're just experiencing technical difficulties. Hopefully your regularly scheduled posts will be back soon!

Posted Wed Aug 15 19:32:53 2018 Tags:
Coffee ground topdressing

Blog reader Tami wrote in last week to share her success with coffee grounds in her Mississippi garden. When she moved to her new home in the suburbs, she resolved to only buy plants if they were productive in some way. This was made more difficult due to her "standard Mississippi dirt with two inches of topsoil over clay."

Luckily, Tami was ingenious. She wrote:

"I made a deal with my local coffee shop and pick up 2 five gallon buckets of used coffee grounds and filters every other day. They were throwing it in a landfill in plastic garbage bags and complaining about how heavy their garbage was."

Coffee ground compost pile

With her source of organic matter taken care of, the only question was how to manage the bounty that flowed into her small yard. Tami explained:

"There is magic in the compost pile. I have put over 100 gallons of coffee grounds straight under my river birch to make a soft meditation spot in front of the buddha, and the grounds are brown and spent looking and kind of lifeless. But the coffee that goes into the compost pile is dark rich and teeming with life.

"This pile is about a year old and I think the best thing I did for it was get some mushrooms started in it. They fruit often because I love to go out and water it in the evenings. (If you haven't caught the Joe Rogan podcast with Paul Stamets - drop everything and go listen. It is riveting.)"

Coffee ground garden

With the help of her thrice-weekly coffee-grounds pickup, Tami's edibles are now thriving and filling her plate. "I have an amazing little productive back yard," she told me, "with herbs, vegetables, and fruit, including bananas, figs, and muscadine grapes."

Doesn't that make you want to go out and make a deal with the local coffee shop? I know it does for me! Thanks for sharing, Tami. You are my inspiration for the week.

Posted Thu Aug 16 06:32:39 2018 Tags:
Old tractors at Chillicothe Ohio Fair.
The historical line of old tractors are often my favorite part of a county fair.
Posted Fri Aug 17 06:00:32 2018 Tags:
Very young cabbageworms

Despite the name, I've found southern cabbageworms to be more of a pest in our new, northern homestead than they were in Virginia.

I think the deal is that the Ohio growing season is a little shorter. So the crucifers, by necessity, poke further into the summer in both spring and fall gardens.

Since southern cabbageworms are at their peak in hot weather, that means daily caterpillar-squashing sessions to ensure the nibblers don't entirely consume our broccoli and brussels sprouts.

Southern cabbageworm eggs

The squashing sessions became more efficient last week when I realized where the butterflies in question lay their eggs. Unlike the older caterpillars, who usually show up on the undersides of young leaves, the eggs are laid under older leaves that aren't yet senescing but are no longer tender and fresh.

Now that I know what to look for in the egg department, I'm probably nipping 90% of the infestations in the bud. Which is a good thing since our crucifer planting just ballooned out to three times its previous size last week!

Posted Sat Aug 18 06:00:29 2018 Tags:

Anna at the River Museum.
I'm going to take the rest of the month off from blogging due to a shift to light duty.

There is a hernia surgery I have scheduled for the end of the month that will fix the problem.

Posted Sun Aug 19 06:00:31 2018 Tags:
Mulch burrito step 1

A drier climate combined with newly kill-mulched aisles means my buckwheat harvesting methodology needed a little tweak. First, I rolled back the cardboard and wood chips that had run a few inches into the bed to to ensure total weed kill....

Mulch burrito step 2

...then I used newly yanked buckwheat to weigh the mulch burrito down. The result will be a line of composting organic matter along the bed's perimeter, which can be raked back into the center as mulch around new plants.

Kale seedlings

In fact, I've been doing this with yanked weeds as well, which would have been a lesson in failure in Virginia where it rained so much. But up here in Ohio, a weed with roots exposed dies in a heartbeat, then its body goes back to feed the ground. This last image, taken five days later with a time machine (okay, really it's last week's kale bed) shows the end result.

Posted Mon Aug 20 06:00:42 2018 Tags:
Tree helicopter

Helicopter sawA crew came by on Monday, cutting trees away from the powerline. The big difference? The saw was lowered from a helicopter!

The pilot was pretty impressive, making gentle sweeps close to the poles and wires. He did end up knocking out our electricity for about an hour though.

But we were still very impressed by his prowess...and glad to prevent longer outages during upcoming storms. So I guess the only real downside is that now Mark wants a helicopter saw....

Posted Wed Aug 22 06:00:29 2018 Tags:
Eggplant parmesan ingredients

Between first-year-establishment tasks, Mark's hernia, and the extra time I'm putting into my fiction writing, I decided not to do any preserving this year. But there's still a lot to cook up!

Summer harvest

On the plus side, smaller batches of vegetables coming out of the garden tend to make for more variety in my cooking. If there aren't quite enough beans to create a side all by themselves, I throw in some bell peppers and squash or eggplant and turn it into a stir fry.

How about you? Is your summer garden a bust or are you paying people to take tomatoes and summer squash to deal with the glut?

Posted Fri Aug 24 06:00:38 2018 Tags:
Alligator swamp

Mark and I used to call the wettest part of the floodplain on our previous farm the Alligator Swamp. So imagine our amusement when Mom sent me the clipping above about a real alligator found just half an hour down the road. If you can't read her handwriting, the note on the side says: "You missed the boat on a possible meat crop!"

Speaking of our old farm, as we come up on our one-year anniversary of moving north, Mark and I decided to drop the price on our 58-acre Virginia homestead to $64,999. Our realtor is currently fielding at least three interested parties, but I thought it was only fair to notify the rest of you just in case you want to throw your hat into the ring. Just think, you could be alligator farmers by the end of the year!

Posted Sun Aug 26 06:00:35 2018 Tags:
Ragweed harvest

It's ragweed-harvesting season in our neck of the woods! No, I didn't go out looking for this source of biomass --- it grew up quite naturally in the parts of our garden that haven't yet been cultivated.

If you catch ragweed as it's blooming and just before it goes to seed, you can use the cut plants as mulch around perennials. This year, I opted to merely pile the stalks up in the center of the garden to compost in situ. More organic matter in a garden is always a plus!

Posted Tue Aug 28 06:00:44 2018 Tags:
Two-day-old calf

Mark's hernia surgery was yesterday, and it went off without a hitch. Elapsed time including driving, anesthesia, and recovery was 7 hours. Actual time under the knife? 30 minutes or less.

The nurse said today will be the time of peak soreness. So if you want to send some healing thoughts his way, I'm sure Mark will much appreciate the boost.

As for blogging --- he'll be on light duty for at least three more weeks (no lifting, pushing, or pulling more than 30 pounds during that period). But without the nearly daily pain that was interrupting his life during to the runup to the surgery, I suspect he'll have something interesting to post about before that time has elapsed. So stay tuned!

(The image above is our neighbor's two-day-old calf. I thought you'd rather see that than Mark's surgical wound....)

Posted Thu Aug 30 06:00:33 2018 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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