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

Dogwood Winter 2015

Dogwood winter

We're currently in the middle of Dogwood Winter 2015, an annual event that seems to determine whether or not we get fruit from our trees each year. In 2014, the Dogwood Low was 25, which meant no fruit. The year before, the Dogwood Low was 29, which meant good fruit production. This year, we dropped down to 27 --- only time will tell which way the fruit teeter-totter tipped.

Farm view

This is what our farm looks like during Dogwood Winter. The white splotches are row-cover fabric laid over potentially tender broccoli and blooming strawberries. The figs are also still covered --- maybe I'll take off their tarps once the beautiful, sunny weather returns.

Chicks exploring the outdoors

Unlike the garden, our chicks are largely unfazed by the cold weather. Starting when they're a week old, I let the baby birds run out the door of their brooder if the grass is dry, if no rain is in the forecast, and if I'm going to be nearby. Their first day out, the chicks always wander out of sight of the doorway and then get terrified that they're alone in the wide world...meaning that I have to herd them back home. But by day three, the baby chickens are largely self sufficient, picking their way through the tall (to them) grasses in search of bugs.

Yes, the chicks do go back inside by themselves at night (and then I shut the door for predator protection). Yes, we do keep the baby chicks within ten feet of our back door, also for predator protection. No, I wouldn't recommend using even this ultra-safe pasturing technique with one-week-old Cornish Cross.

Cucumber seedlings

In other news, the crazy warm spell that preceded Dogwood Winter tempted germination of the cucumbers and watermelons I plant under quick hoops at this time of year to jumpstart the season. I was relieved to see that 27 degrees outside was warm enough under the quick hoops not to nip the cucurbits' tender leaves. So maybe we'll get early cucumbers again this year --- always a treat when the spring harvests start to expand out into summer offerings.

Weedy carrots

Elsewhere in the garden, we're raking in the lettuce and asparagus (best year ever for the latter!), and are watching our other spring crops slowly grow and mature. Our carrots always require a meticulous hand-weed at this time of year since they're so slow to germinate, meaning that weeds have time to slip under their emerging canopy. That task is on the agenda for the week to come. I'll be thinning the seedlings too...except in the bed where I forgot to lay down my Huckleberry deterrent, with the result that the carrot seedlings were naturally thinned. Thanks, you ornery old cat....

Looking up into a bee hive

Next door, a photo up under the hive shows that a week or two of sugar water was enough to get the colony growing like crazy. With the bees working down in the bottom box, it's time to nadir on a new living space.

In other bee news, we were supposed to be getting our bees this week, but apparently rain slowed down the works so they'll be yet another week late. Here's hoping this very tardy start on the new colony doesn't prevent the bees from storing up enough honey to make it through the winter. I guess I'll have to commit to more feeding than usual....

Curious goat

Hungry goatOf course, I couldn't wrap up this here-and-there post without a shot or two of the goats, out enjoying a beautiful sunny day before the cold weather hit. It's amazing how different Abigail looks now that she's getting nearly as much grass as she can eat. Her hair seems to be more shiny and her weight --- which was slowly drifting downward ever since she popped out her kid --- has stabilized. I guess eating hay and eating grass are as different as subsisting on canned soups versus gorging on spring asparagus. The former will keep you alive, but the latter makes your whole outlook brighter....

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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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Have you thought of scattering black barrels filled with water in your orchard cold spots, to collect a bit of heat?
Comment by Terry Mon Apr 27 11:27:56 2015

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