Saturday, April 05, 2014

You do that when it's raining

It's raining off and on, but I hear a record high may be heading our way, which would be a shock to my worn-out body if I tried to do the heavy stuff in it, so I get out in the grey mist and have a go at the remains of the big ash tree. It had loomed over the end of the driveway and the power lines and the main trunk had suffered from heart rot -- always very common in Oregon ash, though a friend tells me that all trees are suffering now from pollution. It was throwing branches in windstorms and in the recent ice storm, so the electric utility came to have it down and we asked for the wood.

We do heat the house and cook with wood, and it heats our dishwater. Our theory is at least it's not fossil fuels or nuclear. To the extent possible we grow our own on short-rotation coppice, but to get one these big ones is a real bonus. We have about eight more but won't go after them unless we have to. The replacement trees are already growing in their shadow, meanwhile.

You can see my little system pretty well here. There is a used pallet on top of the blue wheelbarrow, with a slot cut in the pallet, and an electric chainsaw reduces smallwood to 16" size for mixing with the bigger pieces.


I use a six pound maul (can't really handle an eight anymore) to knock slabs off the rounds, which I bring over on a hand truck, one by one, from the heap left by the workmen. It really helps that they cut the rounds to size. I stack twenty slabs and twenty small bits at a time. Many of the little pieces are actually cut with pruning loppers. They become part of the kindling routine at the woodstove.


Today, you can see, I'm done with the back row and have started the middle row. This woodshed is three rows of 16" wood deep. I built it in 1994, hence the moss. I'm taking lots of breaks. You do that when it's raining and you're a few weeks shy of Medicare.

Update. Day Two.

It's a little drier out and Son is here to help, as a few of the rounds from the main trunk of the ash are too heavy for me in my old age. He wrestles them out and rolls them to me. I bust them up. then he hands me the pieces to stack.

Second row in the woodshed bay is finished by the end of the day. We knock off to watch a Sergio Leone film together.


Update. Third day.

Now it's hot out. Well, to me it's hot: 75F, according to Intellicast. So I'm moving much more slowly, plus sore from the preceding two days.

Also, I'm working farther from the house. There are some big oak branches that came down in the ice storm. I can't get the ones in the creek right now, but there's plenty to do in the pasture. Which also needs mowing. So, first, three wheelbarrow loads of grass clippings to the garden, to make it easier to roll the wheelbarrow with wood, then saw up and transport four wheelbarrow loads of oak to the woodshed.

And that's a day:


These branches are quite mossy so I'm stripping and saving that, along with the usual sawdust. We have no log buildings to chink but it will come in handy for something ....


Tuesday, April 01, 2014

What we get is all we get


Beloved is cutting the flowering stalks from the rhubarb. I'm in the greens bed.

Seedlings. In February the shaker of mixed seeds was shaken across the flats and what came up, came up. Lots of lettuce, but as usual the eager beavers were the radishes and kale. There might be some spinach or joi choi, can't tell yet. Everything that looked better than halfway decent was pricked out in March, after the second pair of leaves appeared, and moved to its own three inch pot.


The pots were set into water-retaining flats and bottom watered thereafter, to prevent damping off. The flats were loaded onto the shelves in the big south facing "greenhouse" window and turned daily.

In April, the First being a moderately dry day after many storms,  the flats were set out along with the kneeler and the ho-mi (a right angled trowel). I'm, in spite of my best intentions, a bit of a grid planter and tend to space greens a ho-mi apart in each direction, about a foot. I'm making some effort to put kale and collards in the inner "rows" and radishes in the outer ones, because the kale will spread. Other than that, whatever comes to hand is popped into the ground in the order it came in the flat.


A little bit of mulch pulled up to a transplant will help with sunburn, especially at the root collar. 

The pots are all tucked into one another, as are the flats, and carried back to the potting shed for re-use, either right away (there are more greens not yet pricked out) or later in the spring, or for fall planting, or for next year. 

I'll run over the bed with some water, to reduce shock to the transplants, even though it is not sunny out.


There are flats of peas and flats of Egyptian onions and garlic (I don't mind spring planting garlic). But these are young yet. On to other things for now. 

If you plant, you may get to eat some things. Or not. If not, there is nothing to point to and say, I did not get to eat this. That which exists is what exists and that which does not is an abstraction. 

If I knew where the netting was, I might net this bed. Precautions are not a bad thing. I won't be poisoning, though. There has been enough of that, and a dead zone is burgeoning off our coast.

What we get is all we get.


Monday, March 17, 2014

In the beginning



We keep our seed packets in a wooden index box in the refrigerator, and it's an exciting moment every year when the box comes out to be gone through for early planting in the potting shed/greenhouse.

This year, for perhaps no very good reason other than that I like to, I've put a lot of greens seeds and roots seeds in an herb shaker, swirled them all together, and shaken out seed, as one might in salting one's dinner, over a flat of potting soil, to see what comes up. 

And again, two weeks later.

Things have indeed come up, and while I recognize the lettuce, the kale, collards, cabbages, joi choi, chard, beets, radishes, spinach and so on all look much alike to me. You cannot try this sort of laizzez-faire foolery in the garden if you're not good at telling your vegs from the weeds, but in the potting shed it does not seem to do much harm. 

In the garden, these potlings may well be planted out, more or less on a grid, as I come to them, kneeling by the beds. It results in a bit of a polyculture, where a plant may find a nutrient it prefers because its neighbor doesn't, or can find water because its neighbor's feet run deeper or shallower than its own, or a bug gets tired of having to travel so much to find its favorite lunch special.

This does not lead to the efficient harvesting beloved of industry, but may be its own kind of resilience, and to me is much more fun.

Today I pricked out some of the bigger items (many of whom, no doubt, are the French Breakfast radishes) and medium items (among whom, I hope are the Cracoviensis and Forellenschluss lettuces) and moved them on to three inch pots in leakproof flats, suitable for bottom watering. I want to get things past the point where they can vanish in the garden in one day (birds) or night (slugs) without my having a chance to defend them.


There is a swaying-swishing sort of slow dance to this, and I like to have Chopin's Preludes playing in the background as I do it.


In the photos, you may notice a blender sitting on the bench in the background. It's a dedicated garden tool (i.e., not borrowed from the house, which has its own). They can be quite inexpensive from the local thrift store. What I do is fill the pitcher about half with water, add a little bit of "yellow liquid," and some chopped comfrey and perhaps a few other herby things as the fancy takes me.

Bzzzzt. Instant tea.

Decant into a watering can through a sieve or strainer, and let sit a few days in a sunny spot in the greenhouse window. Serve to the bottom-watering pots, but only a very little bit, maybe one part tea to five parts fresh well water. Pow'ful stuff.

Seems to do some good.

But what the blender is really for is to make tea for the garden, when the plants are established there.

Soon, soon. One cannot do everything at once, especially in the beginning.

Sunday, March 09, 2014

What to do when it's mucky out

Not much is doing at Stony Run Farm. We are spring cleaning indoors mostly; it is just too wet out for a lot of infrastructure maintenance, construction or farming.

Beds laid out
We did have a dry spell. I used it to make up the main beds, add some compost, plant sugar snap peas and broadbeans, and bring out and sort the seed potatoes. We only plant one 3X50 foot bed of these a year, and though our method is one of benign neglect, we get enough that this year, for example, although we lost a third of the stored spuds in the garage to the big -9F freeze, we planted a third of the remainder in the bed and still have two thirds to eat, plant elsewhere, boil for the chickens, or otherwise find a home for. The bad ones have gone to the compost, the best of the good ones into the ground, and the remainder went back into the garage, with, hopefully, the slime from the bad ones hosed off.

We had a spectacular late killing frost last year in April, so all this is a gamble, but with clean spuds in storage we feel we can afford to give it a try.

For the peas, we made short trenches across a bed with a hoe, dropped the seeds down a length of pipe, and covered with potting soil. For the broadbeans, we trenched, dropped the big seeds down the pipe (they were too large for our usual pipe, so we went with a 1.5" diameter one) and simply dragged the leaf litter/soil over them.

Covering broadbeans
It's supposed to be too mucky out for all this, and the clay in the paths certainly speaks to that, clinging to our boots, but the ever-so-slightly raised beds and, in the case of the peas, the potting soil, are a help.

Comfrey is coming up along the duck fences as planned, but it's also come up where we "moved" it from, so I am planning to lift them from along the north side of the house and add them along yet more fence. The blueberry bed and raspberry bed have cut down our veg options, so the volunteer Egyptian onions and garlic need to be moved to that north wall, where some of them already seem to be doing quite well. This will open a little space for summer crops. We're also digging up and giving away some rhubarb.

But I will wait for the rain to slacken a bit. Good thing I have a few books to serialize and then tweet about, neh?

Risa's Scriptorium



Saturday, March 01, 2014

Viewing Jasper Mountain book blog


Here is the header for a new book blog, Viewing Jasper Mountain. It's the book divided into post-sized bits, and they will appear once a week over the next few months. This one joins Starvation Ridge, 100 poems, iron buddhas, and Buddhism and Permaculture as book blogs already associated with the books from Stony Run Press.

Viewing Jasper Mountain (Kindle link) is a homesteading/gardening journal with twelve chapters, one for each month, and gives the reader a glimpse of homesteading thinking and doing in the fast-receding 1990s.

If you like the blog, do consider buying the book in one of its five formats (and counting), and posting a review. Indie authors and publishers that try to fight shy of the crassness of advertising rely on a good word here and there for their livelihood.

Thank you!

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

To see another Spring

 

Here's a sample of the downage from the big ice storm. Millions of trees have been damaged or destroyed, and the "chips" fell where they would. Of our own trees, the fruit trees, cottonwoods, willows, ash, maples and conifers came through rather unscathed, but the big oak threw down five quite large and heavy branches, two more than a foot in diameter at the big end. We are pleased they did not hit the house, but some of our friends are now having their houses rebuilt. Folks will be digging out from under for weeks. The air is heavy with the snarl of hungry chainsaws and the whine of contractors' trucks and miter saws.

These branches will make nice firewood. But we have to finish the pruning and start the garden first.

I have shut the poultry out of the garden and heaped up the two 3X50' beds at the upper end. Each year I begin by hammering some stakes at what I think are the bed corners, then raking matter out of the "paths," where the chickens have thrown it, toward the beds. I tidy up the boundary between bed and path by tying a "rope" made of baling twine from stake to fence and dragging the straw, muck, old compost, and a bit of soil underneath the rope onto the bed.


The soil in the lower garden is still wet. If the rain stays away I may attempt the four beds there in a few days as well. There are six, really, but one is now all blueberries and another is raspberries. There's little organic matter down there for some reason, though I have thrown compost, leaves and mulch at it for twenty-one years. Such heavy clay defeats everything. So I may have to throw on the contents of the compost bins, some of which is hardly ready for prime time but it might as well finish on the garden as in the heap.


I see I am down to one actual seedling flat, the others all having self-destructed or are the kind that are just for holding pots. So I've filled the loner with potting soil --


-- lined it off, and planted some radishes, kale, collards,lettuce, chard, and spinach. Whatever comes up will be pricked out and moved to pots.


I like the 3" size. These will be given a couple of either broadbeans or sugar snap peas each, and watered in. I brought home a spare blender from the last Florida expedition, and it sits on the potting shed counter, awaiting various concoctions for the garden. To water in these peas, beans, and greens I put comfrey, grass, dandelions, willow buds, garlic and mint in the blender, gave it all a whirl, and then decanted green liquid through a fine sieve into the watering can.

I've made a "warming" shelf by adding a plywood skirt to one of the "greenhouse" shelves and setting a 100 watt bulb just underneath. We'll see what that does. The world, with its changing climate, still offers enough bounty that gardeners can afford to experiment. 

I'm glad to see another Spring, and I'm not alone. Though I am dressed yet for Winter, my bones are moving a bit more easily, and if that and the smell of the warming earth were not enough clues, the juncos, towhees and sparrows are making offerings of song just beyond the potting shed door.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Turning the wheel of days


Bees are in the crocuses and dandelions between the bucketfuls of hard rain. I'm trying hard not to get overexcited when I go out to the potting shed; it would be so easy to start potting up -- but there is still firewooding of the huge storm-broken branches, and pruning of  the forty fruit trees, and pulling the beds back together that were leveled by the chickens and ducks, all of which, every year, I am supposed to do first. 


And I'm just not finding comfortable weather -- whine, whine, but at my age even a little exposure can be an issue. So it's out to the potting shed to clean up, sort, and dream, egged on by a mighty chorus of unseen frogs along the creek.


For twenty-one years I've planted seeds in this room. It was a frightful mess when we first saw it in 1993, the tail end of a badly built shed with an algae-slimed chipboard floor both too slick and too punky to walk on. The kids demolished the floor and walls for me, yelping with joy as nail-studded panels crashed all round them. We brought home a load of antique bricks from a chimney that was free for the taking, and Daughter (then seven) helped lay a new floor in a herringbone pattern. When it was done we danced.


We scrounged fence boards for the new walls and put in windows that friends gave us from their scrap piles.


Two-by fours found around the place were leaned against the south wall and supported recycled sliding glass doors. For a decade this was our greenhouse for starts, then we needed one of the doors for a barn window and the present arrangement has a vertical glass wall.


Before I built the solar dryers, I sometimes set up our window screens in the greenhouse to dry apple chips. Worked a charm.


Soon, I suspect, I will give in to the call of the seeds. To the tune of whatever's on our local classical station (I hope it will be Chopin), I'll lean forward and back, rhythmically scooping soil into three inch pots and tucking tiny bits of life just beneath the leveled surface.


Another year will have begun.


And one can only hope.


Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Looking ahead


Garden blog? What garden blog? First it snowed again, but at least did not go below zero (F) again, then there was an ice storm, then branches and trees crashing down, then temperature up to 55F but raining hard. I stay in a lot. I eat soup a lot.

Our big oak threw down four branches that look to be in the thousand pound range, but none of them hit the house. For us that's a boon (we can put the fences back up with ease after firewooding) but across the street the neighbors will be rebuilding their shop from scratch.

A friend lost her garage when two mature cottonwoods smashed right down through it, with a noise that damaged her hearing, and also wrecked the roof of the house behind hers. I brought over some tools, since they can't get into the garage through the damaged doors, then brought home some of the wood that had been piled by the curb. There was a break in the weather, so I made a loose woodpile and began adding to it by cutting up ash and maple branches that had fallen in our driveway. It was my first decent outdoor work since about December 10. As the rainstorm began, I closed up the saw job and went to sit by the fire, watching the creek rise through the big dining room window. Then I gathered together some blog posts I've been making and produced this little thing, using a pic from, admittedly, our best farming year here at Stony Run, 2009:

Price: Free
Download immediately.
An attempt to meld the Buddhist Eightfold Path with Permaculture's twelve principles as formulated by David Holmgren and others. By the author of Starvation Ridge.












To, you know, encourage folks. Myself included ...

We've had some aggravation, but nothing like the eastern U.S., Australia, England, Ireland, Brazil, and a hundred other places, neh? From here on in, getting in crops will be more and more unusual, I think. I know city folks often don't think about this much, but to eat you must eat things that are either alive or have lived. What do you think that means in the midst of the sixth great extinction?

Ironically, if there's any future left, it's probably in the hands of farmers. No, not the ten-thousand-acre kind.

This kind.

So says an urgent report from the United Nations:

http://unctad.org/en/PublicationsLibrary/ditcted2012d3_en.pdf
They show a rather large and rather plowed field on the cover, which is too bad, but don't let that put you off.

The UNCTAD argues that farming must return to small scale production for food security, water security, carbon security, and climate security. That sounds like a worthwhile endeavor to me. Interested? But don't own land? There are many ways to get involved; here's one.

Wednesday, February 05, 2014

A brief announcement



Starvation Ridge is at last available on Amazon (though not yet for the Kindle). Here is the link: http://www.amazon.com/Starvation-Ridge-Risa-Bear/dp/1304772683/. Be it noted that if you buy the print edition from Lulu I make over three dollars. At Amazon I make all of thirty-three cents! Thank you for your kind attention. We will soon resume our regular blogging ...

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

New blog (like you don't have enough to read)

Buddhism and permaculture

With the high-ridge fog continuing at about 32F much of the time, I've been mostly doing plumbing and housework. And, umm, being a nuisance on the Internet. So this is an announcement of a new blog, which will consist initially of the buddhism/permaculture posts that appeared here late in 2013, and maybe go on from there. Here's the link, if ya wanna go there.

http://buddhismpermaculture.blogspot.com/

See also:

Toward a Buddhist/Permaculture Ethic for Smallholders and OthersBy Risa Bear
eBook (ePub): FREE
Download immediately.

An attempt to meld the Buddhist Eightfold Path with Permaculture's twelve principles as formulated by David Holmgren and others. By the author of Starvation Ridge.

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