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

archives for 10/2019

Oct 2019

What a summer! We dug up an amazing harvest of spring carrots, then drought came and depressed our other crops by 40%, my gardening enjoyment by 80%, and my impulse to post by 100%.

New bathroom

Meanwhile, various leaks soaking into the trailer's subfloor resulted in a major renovation project. I now have a fancy dual-flush toilet just like Mark saw during his August trip to Amsterdam! (And a very cute shower curtain.)

Runaway camper

Speaking of trips, we took a lot of them. We traveled to New York City so I could speak at a writing conference. Then we bought a used Runaway camper and started enjoying overnight jaunts in our metaphorical backyard. There was also a Ren Faire, a Steampunk Spectacle, some flintknapping, weekly Irish dancing, and lots and lots of mushrooms!

Broad-winged Hawk

That's right, wild fungi, photographed and (occasionally) eaten have been the highlight of my summer despite the drought. And they deserve a post of their more on that sooner than three months from now, I hope.

Posted Thu Oct 3 07:59:33 2019 Tags:
October harvest

Life on a ridge is very different from life in our former swampy bottomland. On the plus side, we miss a lot of gentle frosts and we never have to deal with waterlogging. On the downside, this past summer's hot, dry weather was really, really dry.

Dealing with drought is very new for me. So this post is probably Drought Homesteading 101 for many of you. Still, just in case this is new....

Composting in dry conditions

Manure pile

I'm so used to piling up organic matter then coming back in a few months to beautiful humus, so this was a shock to me. But the lovely pile of manure above...did absolutely nothing all summer long.

Worm composting

What worked? Our bathtub worm bins. I actually had two side by side, one seeded with worms and one not. Both promoted a lot more composting action than happened with the compostables piled up out in the open.

In retrospect, this is pretty obvious. Contain the moisture with an impermeable bin, then top it off with a lid that holds in water while letting a little rain drip through. Voila --- perfect composting environment!

So, yeah, bins are clearly the solution if you need to compost in the dry.

Seedling germination during drought
Compost, of course, was the least of my worries this past summer. In retrospect, I should have started watering the instant the ground went a little dry and kept it up multiple times a week. In reality, I let the soil grow so parched before I started irrigating that getting seeds to sprout and seedlings to stay alive was an uphill battle.

Volunteer lettuce

Luckily, nature is resilient. Remember those wood-chip aisles I put between my beds? I let spring kale and lettuce go to seed before pulling them out, and both managed to self-seed into that high-humus, moisture-rich environment. Which sure is lucky because almost none of the seedlings in the beds themselves sprouted!

Transplanted kale

Transplants moved from aisle to bed at the couple-of-true-leaves stage saved the fall garden (although I wasn't so lucky with the pea and carrot crops or with a lot of my second and third summer plantings). Phew! Lazy garden-bed cleanup to the rescue!

More to learn

Rain gauge

Obviously, I have a lot more to learn about ridgetop gardening. For example, we need to get gutters on our trailer so we can capture rainwater, and we need to try some other irrigation tactics. (Impulse sprinklers were awesome in our damp, free-water environment of Homestead 1.0 but didn't cut it here when the ground was deeply dry.) But that can wait for another post and another drought. For now, the rain has returned!

Posted Tue Oct 22 14:05:07 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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