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

archives for 03/2019

Mar 2019

I hadn't even been over here to check comments for months --- sorry to leave so many of you dangling in moderation, especially when you were all so thoughtful and kind. Rather than answering you individually, here's a holiday-letter type of rundown from the last three months.

Shelf fungus

Most relevantly, we sold our Virginia farm. It was a bittersweet moment, but we're glad of the time and money freed up as we move on to new adventures.

Plastic production

Mark won a $100 voucher for our local 3-D printing workshop, but he hasn't used it yet. He also finished up an ultra-short documentary about our new stomping grounds and was pleased to have it chosen for our local community film festival. He continues to take one class per semester at the local university and to help other students with their films while he scratches his own creative itch.

Birthday cake

In December, we celebrated our 30-40-50 birthday parties with my cousin-in-law, in from Europe for the occasion.

Star Wars wall art

Then we repainted the living room wall and turned it into a Star Wars zone in honor of Mark's new decade.

Snow creations

It snowed and snowed and snowed and snowed, and the neighbor kids helped turn the white stuff into sculptures.

Door painting

They also helped sweeten the fact that someone kicked in our trailer door two days before Thanksgiving and stole our new chainsaw and two heirloom shotguns. So we replaced the door and installed a fancy security system...not that we have anything else worth stealing. (We haven't replaced the chainsaw or please leave our poor door alone!)

Tow truck

I broke Mark's truck...


...and he now cooks all the lunches. Our relationship is really very even...I promise.

(Yes, the truck is now fixed, just in time for hauling manure for the garden.)

Library fox

We got to see a real, live fox at the library...

Leo petroglyph

...and visited a Native American petroglyph, both of which fed into my fiction writing.

Soaking early peas

I started broccoli and parsley inside then gambled and direct-seeded early peas and lettuce. Many more crops are on the agenda for the months ahead, of course.

Tree shadows

And I went on hikes here,

Indian mound


Snowy trees

and everywhere.

Snow on mullein leaves

Until the next time I'm randomly called to upload photos...happy adventures!

Posted Sun Mar 3 16:15:37 2019 Tags:

Bug-Free Organic GardeningIt's time to admit it --- I've been holding out on you! I have a new book coming out on April 2...or do I?

Bug-Free Organic Gardening is actually the third edition of The Naturally Bug-Free Garden, with 25% additional content rounding out the hands-on portion of the book. Which means that if you purchased one of the previous editions in ebook-form from Amazon, you should be able to get the updated version for free. I couldn't get Customer Service to push out the update automatically, but if you contact support they can hook you up with the new book file.

You can also nab a paperbook copy now to ship once the book goes live. (It's currently 31% off on Amazon!) Or you can borrow a copy for free via your Kindle Unlimited or Prime subscription.

And now, without further ado, one of the new sections, an interview of Ohio University's professor Arthur Trese:

Ohio University garden

While the permaculture technique of building a bug-resistant ecosystem is inherently appealing, most gardeners will occasionally be forced to lower their standards if they hope to harvest an abundant crop. Scientists have a name for this process of aiming for the stars but accepting reality when necessary—integrated pest management (or IPM for short). In a nutshell, IPM involves understanding how pest insects fit into the ecosystem, using preventative measures like row covers and hand-picking when possible, then hitting population explosions with the lowest levels of effective insecticides when all else fails.

Dr. Arthur Trese of Ohio University's Learning Garden in Athens, Ohio, is a farmer well versed in IPM. He and a small cadre of enthusiastic interns run this 1.5-acre fruit and vegetable plot using vast quantities of elbow grease. Still, there are only so many hours in the day. So they have to work smart to harvest sufficient produce for twice-weekly sales to students, faculty, and members of the broader community.

To that end, Trese and his interns utilize a vast variety of pest-control methods, beginning with smart plantings meant to overcome invasions before they start. For example, summer squashes are set out successionally throughout the season, with older plants quickly transitioning from productive members of the garden community into traps for squash vine borers. Insects lay their eggs on first-generation stems, those vines are removed, then younger plants are left pristine.

Cucumber wilt

Cucumber beetles are a bit trickier since this smaller pest hits the OU garden both hard and fast. To counteract the inevitable invasion, Trese begins with row covers when the plants are young, adding in the organic insecticide spinosad when pest populations start to soar. "We first used Bt in our garden," Trese notes. "But Bt only works on caterpillars. Spinosad is more broad-spectrum and is the only insecticide we currently use on our crops."

Trese has looked into chemical-free alternatives for the pesky cucumber beetles, mentioning pheromone traps that have recently come onto the market. "But traps are expensive," he notes as he pulls out a cucumber vine that succumbed to bacterial wilt borne by the small, yellow beetles. A pragmatist, he understands that sometimes it's better to accept a certain level of losses than to spend more than you earn battling bugs.

Spider flowers

Pragmatism doesn't prevent Trese from focusing on the ecosystem, however. His garden is full of flowers that attract pollinators and act as trap crops to condense problematic insects into one spot. Meanwhile, parasitic wasps are his slow-but-sure solution to cabbageworms on broccoli. "Wasp populations build naturally over the course of the season," Trese notes. "By fall, 80% of the caterpillars on broccoli are affected...but the cabbageworms keep eating anyway."

The caterpillars may eat, but the community does too. And after over a decade managing a garden that produces bags and barrels and bins of produce every week, Trese's integrated approach to pest control has clearly paid off. All it took was a few patches of flowers...and a lot of elbow grease.

Want more bug-free garden tips? Nab your copy of Bug-Free Organic Gardening now!
Posted Mon Mar 18 11:19:04 2019 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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